• Bill Petrie

Through Their Eyes

I know I've learned more from my boys than they have learned from me

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and it was precisely the day that I wanted: I slept in, watched the Formula One race with the boys, made a quick trip to Kroger (even on “my” day, I can’t avoid the daily trip to the grocery store), laid on the couch most of the day fading in and out of delicious afternoon slumber, and grilled award-winning burgers for dinner. Well, they are award-winning in my house – and the home of Josh Robbins – but that’s beside the point. In other words, it was a perfect Father’s Day from this crusty old goat.

Over the past 18 years, I hope that I’ve been able to teach them the life lessons that will help them reach their full potential as men. During this transitional summer, I find myself thinking about the inevitable peaks and valleys of parenthood. I also notice I reflect more often on the lessons they have taught me over the years. Most times, the things I have learned from them eclipse what I have taught them – and they are just as applicable in business as they are in life:

  • Be curious – Drew and Mitch’s all-time favorite question has always been the seemingly easy (but far more complex below the surface) of “why?” While frustrating at times, it’s crucial to continually ask questions, look in drawers, turn knobs, and push buttons. As an adult, we all need to remember that being inquisitive is how we learn – and there’s always more to learn.

  • Joy in simplicity – The delight of a giant box, the thrill of reaching near terminal velocity on a water slide, the magic of seeing a Major League Baseball park for the first time, or even perfectly-timed display of flatulence (we do live in a house of boys) are simple pleasures. Kids understand that joy can be found in simple pleasures everywhere if you intentionally seek it.

  • Acceptance – My kids have never judged anyone. They don’t see color, religion, gender, faults, or flaws in others. All they see is the potential for a new friend, which is how we should all view life.

  • Live in the now – Drew and Mitch never stopped playing with Legos because of a self-imposed deadline to watch Blues Clues. Instead, they always did whatever they were doing as long as they were having fun. So, enjoy the sunset, the book you’re reading, or the album you can’t turn off – the laundry can wait an hour. Living in the moment makes life far more enjoyable.

  • Be passionate – Wearing superhero costumes daily, building the Legos as mentioned above, or even origami (yes, they loved the Japanese art of paper folding for a long time) would keep my boys entertained and enthralled for hours if not days. When they discovered a new activity, they embraced it with unabashed love and excitement and put all of themselves into the endeavor. As adults, it’s essential not to temper our passion but instead embrace it as that is the only way to experience life fully.

  • Savor the small moments – Making up stories at bedtime, playing goofy games in the car, or simply walking hand-in-hand on the beach are just of few of the sweet moments Drew and Mitch never rushed. They never pulled away to take a call, answer a text, or clean up their room. That pure delight taught me that time with them IS the good old days.

  • No limits – Batman, fireman, Indiana Jones, sports broadcaster, or an automotive engineer – Drew and Mitch always believed they could be anything they want because they didn’t (and still don’t) limit themselves. Their perceived flaws, fears, or shortcomings don’t dictate their dreams – their interests and passions do. They remind me that every time I think I can’t, I can.

  • Be fearless – Both of them have always run headlong into new, unknown experiences. They remind me that being bold and daring creates the best memories. Fortune ALWAYS favors the bold.

  • Love hard and love unconditionally – The moment they looked into my eyes – and I mean REALLY looked – I fully understood what unconditional love meant. They accept me for my many flaws, my countless shortcomings, and the never-ending stream of dad jokes. With their love, they are all in all the time. They have taught me that when you love hard and without conditions, there are no limits to the joys of life.

There are a ton more lessons they have taught me, but I need content for future blogs. Joking aside, the simple fact is my kids aren’t kids any longer – they are young adults champing at the bit to spread their wings as freshmen in college just two months from now. While I hope they remember the things I have tried to teach them, I know I will cherish the education they have given me for the rest of my life for they have made me a better businessman and a better human. Life is much sweeter when I view it through they eyes of my sons.


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