Skin in the Game
I love to write about my children. Recently I wrote about my son JP, about to graduate from Purdue University. Today, it’s Justin who’s on my mind. Justin is the baby of the family, like his father. It’s true that the baby gets away with more than the rest. It’s like the pacifier progression. Your first child only uses a sterile and boiled pacifier. It drops to the ground, it gets replaced with a new fresh one.
The second kid gets a pacifier washed in hot water. It goes to the ground, and it gets rinsed off before it goes back into the pie hole. The third kid gets a pacifier that comes out of a purse and could taste like old gum, eye liner, or perfume. It drops, it goes back in so long as no rocks or dog poo are on it. The fourth (Justin), gets a stick.
Justin has a heart of gold. He is by far our most compassionate child. He can sense stress and comes to the rescue. If there are harsh words being exchanged, a wink of an eye can be a salve to the wound. This weekend, our freshman in college surprised us with a quick stop at home with three of his college buddies. He didn’t know that his 96-year-old Oma was visiting for the day. Immediately, he introduced his friends to his grandmother and sat on the same chair with her and snuggled up to her. She glowed like a new engagement ring, smiling sheepishly at the boys. While it’s true that he had to introduce them a second time to her while they were there, he didn’t mind nor was he embarrassed, just proud to show off his grandmother to the boys.
I told the boys to take a good hard look at Justin’s grandma because it will likely be the last time in their lives that they have an opportunity to see and speak to someone who lived under the occupation of Adolf Hitler and survived to talk about it. Oma survived and experienced victory and liberation for her homeland, the Netherlands.
All of our kids, if they want to go to college, have to have skin in the game and pay half of the costs themselves. Yours truly paid for 100 percent of his education, but it was a different time back in the Middle Ages (I just remember how heavy those stone tablets were and those chisels, don’t get me going). In Indiana, Purdue, led by President Mitch Daniels, is one of the nation’s top colleges and because of masterful vision and fiscal responsibility, a bargain to attend. Justin preferred attending a small private Christian college called Indiana Wesleyan University. IWU as it is called, costs more money than Purdue, so Justin and his parents have more skin in his game. But it’s the deal.
Justin is pretty lucky to have JP as an older brother. JP was a motivated worker. His first job was as a lifeguard, which he hated. Next was at a carwash, which he hated. It wasn’t until he got a job with LAZ Parking doing Valet Parking that he started to figure out the importance of work and making money. Valet Parking was a maturing opportunity for JP. JP went on to start a lawn mowing business. Don’t think dad’s mower, think bigger. Think trailer and commercial mower(s). JP worked his rear end off and easily covered his skin.
Justin transitioned into JP's business and went out to hand out flyers with his brother and worked a couple of days a week earning nice money. Last summer, Justin did it all alone (except when I helped, which was often and cheap…I was free). Justin worked like mad all summer as it never got very hot and it rained often, so the grass kept growing. The fall never showed up and summer lasted well into his first semester in college, so trekking home on weekends to mow got old very fast.
JP and Justin decided to challenge each other to earning money while in school. Justin’s motivation was to quit mowing and find an alternate way to cover his share. Justin became a student of NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Please don’t ask what they are because all I can say is that NFTs are unique digital art. Why someone wants unique digital art will remain a mystery despite the impressive Power Point presentation that Justin showed me to help in my NFT education. How people make money buying and selling NFTs is the 8th Wonder of the World.
Somehow, Justin is figuring it out and making money at it, while in school. As I think back, I am amazed at how different my kids are than I was. When I cut the lawn as a child, I might have been listening to a Walkman, playing a cassette of Alice Cooper. Today, my kids listen to investment podcasts and lectures on Digital Currency. If Justin can earn what he needs for school next year, I get to gain back a spot in my garage and get rid of the gas-smelling lawn equipment. Then all I will have left is one spot full of furniture that my daughter is restoring and selling.
I haven’t done things “textbook correct” with my kids. I’m not one to punish myself for parenting mistakes and things of the past. It’s not worth its weight in salt to relive past mistakes. It’s about what is current and ahead that matters. Caroline loves coming home and most of the neighbors think she still lives at home. She doesn’t. Justin brings his friends over unannounced. There is always food at home, a washer and dryer, and someone who will jump off the couch to do the cooking any time of day or night.
These continue to be awful times for the world - sad and scary times. I hope as you read through my column this month, that you embrace your children and enjoy them like it’s the last time that you will ever see them. Jonathan (JP) once asked me why I enjoy making omelets and bacon on Saturday mornings for them, or anything that they want at any hour of the day and night. I told him that it’s like having the honor of serving a king.
When a king comes to your home, you do anything to serve him and serve him well. Serve him like it’s the only time that he will ever grace your home. It’s kind of like that for me. We only have them once and most of the time they never come back to live at home again. Our job is simply to love our children and love them well. My love language is service. When I am serving, I am loving. When I get served, I’ve been loved well. There isn’t a tomorrow if you don’t seize today.
So, my challenge to you this month is simple: Do some right within the wrong you are most certainly destined to do. Don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s a long race and you’ve got a great kick!