My Children

Today will be a posting that will probably be more cathartic for me than for the reader. The Wall Street Journal had an article this morning that caught my attention: Power Couple: Meet the Sister CEO’s. It explores the fact that for the “first time, two sisters will run big public companies.” The article goes on to discuss these two sisters, as well as other siblings that have worked together within senior leadership.

It is not unprecedented that family members have worked together, but to have two sisters running big companies is quite rare. One of my favorite leaders in recent history is Anne Mulcahy. The turn around that she and Ursula Burns accomplished at Xerox was incredible. However, Anne’s brother actually reported to her at Xerox, which led to some very interesting family gatherings I am sure. But what about the sisters? Who are they, and how did they get to run Campbell’s Soup and Frontier Communications?

Denise Morrison, who will be Campbell’s next CEO, and Maggie Wilderrotter, CEO of Frontier, are sisters who control large corporations that are not family holdings. Their father was an AT&T executive who taught them from a very early age about profit margin goals. Their mother “taught them that ambition is a part of femininity.” The sisters talk frequently and often on six-mile walks. They discuss ideas, etc. Reading about these two sisters, and their family upbringing got me to thinking about my own children. What did I teach my children?

As I look at my children, all of whom are over thirty, I am very proud of what they have done. I have also come to the conclusion that I am a classic baby-boomer who is now looking back thinking about how I should have spent more time with my children and less time working and playing. I am going to describe each of my children, and how I feel about them. I will go through all five from the oldest to the youngest.

Tracy, who is now in her forties, works at a large law firm in Seattle. She is a senior paralegal, and has done well for herself. Tracy and I have had an interesting relationship over the years. We definitely butt heads, as she is strong-willed and so am I. I do think that our conflict has helped her become the strong woman she is today. She and I did not talk for several years, after her mother and I divorced, but we are talking now.

Jennifer, who is in her mid thirties, is very much like me. She was ten when her mother and I divorced, and I think it rocked her world. We did ok a for a few years but now we are not talking. She has done well for herself though. She graduated from WSU with a business degree, and is now the director of finance in Washougal, WA. She and I have not talked for a few years now, which really is tough for me. I really miss her.

Jennie, who grew up in my wife’s and my home, is a survivor. Just like all of my kids she has had ups and downs but through it all she has survived. She has a wonderful daughter named Gracie, and has done a great job of raising her. Gracie loves to read and is very smart. Jennie has worked hard at her job, even though her boss is a jerk, but she does it for herself and Gracie.

Chris, who is thirty-two, is a successful businessman. He left a good job at a church here in town, and started his own business. He and I talk just about every day. He is an intellectual, and probably more stubborn than me. When he left the church in town where he worked after he finished college his supervisor told him that if he wanted to make some real money to come back to the church. It was a bit condescending, but Chris has not looked back. He too, just like Jennie, is a survivor.

Katie, who is my youngest, is twenty-nine (for a couple of yours now), is a very strong individual. She has had her own business for several years now. Like my son she as a great disdain for the man. She likes being her own boss, and I know where ever she plans on going in her life she will be successful.

Like the power sisters how did my kids end up where they are today. Some of it is nature, obviously, while some of it is nurture. I’ll focus on my part of the equation, and my opinion on how I nurtured by action and inaction.

As a Christian I made sure my children saw the importance of faith in their lives. This was both good and bad. Three of my children see religion as the reason for the breakup of my marriage to their mother. It may have been a contributing factor, but my inability to connect intimately with my first wife was the main reason.  Even through this tragedy occurred I hope my children have not lost the importance of a relationship with Jesus Christ. For my other two children growing up in a Christian home we did get them to church on Sunday’s, and they were exposed to faith.

All through the years my children were growing up I was in school. This is why I am a teacher today, but it is also why I have a bit of an estranged relationship with my children. I was very busy working on degrees. My children did see the importance of a college education, which all of them have. Each of them have earned at least one college degree.

I am a reader. I will have three to five books in queue at any time. My son is the same way. He and I frequently talk about the books we are reading. In fact this morning he shared a quote with me from a book he had read, but because he has read some much lately he could not remember which book it had come from. Every Christmas I give my children a book. And every year I write comments in the books related to that year.

I am sure there are other positive things I did while they were growing up that they could look back and say that I had a positive affect on their lives. At least I hope so. I think this is a common adult feeling.

I fear, however, that most of their lessons came from what I didn’t do. For Tracy, Jennifer, and Chris they learned that they did not have anyone else than themselves to count on. That  was good in the sense that they had to fend for themselves which is why they are all successful in their work. However, the price of my absence was pretty high, at least to me.

With Jennie and Katie, I was at home, but I wasn’t at home. Mentally, I was filled with guilt over a divorce, while being over committed to my job, education, and teaching. All they got from me was someone who was there when needed. On the positive side, I think they know they can count on someone to be there when the chips are down. On the negative side, they really did not get a very positive male role model.

So there it is, the children that I love, and have impacted with my life. All of them are productive members of society. All of them care and are contributing. All of them have friends, and have a level of success.They are all CEO’s of their households and their lives. They are all successful in their lives.

None of them are losers. which makes me happy and proud of them. But I am a sad man, because of what I have lost. When I was younger I swore I would be a great father, oh well, maybe next time.

And that is my thought for the day!

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