Flaming Spider Monkeys

I am thankful for my kids.

They don’t do much for me, to be honest. They don’t do me any favors. Not without having to repeat myself multiple times, threaten them, or bribe them.They don’t even do themselves many favors. It’s remarkable how hard you have to work to convince somebody to do simple things that are required to stay alive. If they are ever self-motivated, it’s for 5 minutes stints and usually only in service to building something out of LEGOs or stealing joy from one of their brothers..  It’s going to be a while before I write any LinkedIn endorsements for either of them. 

On paper, it’s really not a fair transaction. At all. My wife and I sink a lot of energy and money into our three little goblins, and the only tangible benefit I can think of off the top of my head is being able to confiscate some of their halloween candy. Yeah, we eat more candy than we probably would if we didn’t have kids. And hugs. Those are nice too. 

They are frustrating. Parenting is trying to understand and reason with a creature that can shapeshift between a brilliant and thoughtful human being, a puppy, a spider monkey that’s on fire, or a piece of toast. And you’re never entirely sure what state they are in, or what form they will take on 60 seconds from now. It’s hard work. But it’s worthwhile work.

All kidding aside. It really is worthwhile. 

That’s one of the reasons why I am thankful for my kids – they have given me something worth working for. I just gave them flack for not being self-motivated. They get that from their dad. Before becoming a parent, I’ve had plenty of things and people to live for. My kids didn’t bring me back from the edge – if anything they’ve pushed me closer to it. And I had a decent work ethic. But holding a baby that is completely helpless and totally dependent on someone else to feed it and care for it, that activated “let’s get down to business mode”. And since then that motivation has grown and evolved. The work I do today and the way I do it isn’t simply to put food on the table, it’s to be an example to my boys. I want them to be proud of me. I want my parents to be proud of me, I want my wife to be proud of me, I want my friends to be proud of me, I want me to be proud of me – but I want my boys – when they’re a little older, to look at what I’ve done and think, “Wow, I want to model the way I work and live on that.” And that motivates me to work better.

I’m thankful for my kids for making my life full. My life is a lot more interesting with 3 flaming spider monkeys keeping me on my toes. And it’s not just being reactive to the curve balls they throw, the jokes they tell, the games or crises they pull us into. Suzy and I need to be proactive. We want them to have rich experiences – teach them things, show them things, take them on trips, introduce them to the world – and as we work to enrich their lives, guess what, it enriches our lives as well. We get to experience those things too.

And I’m thankful for my kids for helping me be a lot more productive than I could ever imagine.

The combination of a full life PLUS the motivation to work for it is a recipe for getting stuff done.

I don’t know why. But when Elliott, my firstborn, was – I dunno, 9 months old if that, I decided to start my grad degree. I thought it was as good a time as any, schedule stuff if only going to get more complicated as he gets older. Let’s do this now. And we want another kid eventually. I’ll finish up school in 2 years or so, we can have our second kid then as I’ll have more time to help out with multi-kid chaos.

Did that go according to plan? Type A if you think it did. Type B if you know it absolutely didn’t happen that way. You have 3 seconds to lock in your answer.

I started grad school in September of 2015. My second kid was born the following fall while I was smack dab in the middle of the program. I could have finished up in the next spring if I double-stacked my courses a certain way, but I stretched it into an additional semester and graduated December 2017. A few months later our third son was born.

What is wrong with us? We squeezed in a whole extra kid into the original timeline. And we pulled it off. I have no idea how, but we did. I do know how actually, I slept a lot less. And I didn’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to. A couple weeks ago I was talking with the Platform Launchers community about this and I joked that with each child we add to the family, the more productive I become. I think I’m okay with my current productivity level though. 

But all that said – what’s the proverb – “Necessity is the mother of invention”? My kids helped me invent a more driven and focused version of myself. That’s not to say that I am a driven and focused person. I’m just more driven and focused than I was before.

There’s a common parent joke around kids being their retirement plan. When we’re older and the kids are grown and hopefully successful adults, THEN we can expect to finally receive some return on investment.

But screw that. I get the joke. I’ve made it myself. I’ll continue to make it, especially when my kids are teens and I’m going to be that dad. But the ROI of child-rearing happens immediately. 

Even when you feel like you are in the red – you are exhausted, you’re discouraged, you are sick for the sixth time in six months because the cold keeps circulating around and around, and you’re angry – angrier than you feel comfortable being at a 4 year old because they don’t want to get out of the bathtub when you’ve asked him to. And that makes you feel low, makes you second guess yourself – your competence, your worth, your ability to carry the weight and be a good parent – when you feel like you are in the red, you feel depleted, it’s because you’re giving so much of yourself to someone else, to a child, who – Lord willing – will outlast you and take a bit of what you’ve poured into them and share that with other people. 

And living a life that is not just for yourself – that goes far beyond yourself – living that sort of life, you’ll never go bankrupt.

You don’t need to have kids to experience this. Whatever you find purpose and meaning in, embrace it, lean into it. Just make sure it’s bigger than you. That it requires you to invest in other people. Find something and someone to pour yourself out for, and you’ll probably find your life will get much fuller.

Before I go, could I ask you a favor? Could you like this video, and maybe take a look at some of the other content I’ve been putting out on my YouTube channel and let me know what you think. I’ve been working on this for a couple years now and I’d love to keep growing it. I want to make sure that it’s helpful and getting in front of people who might be helped by it. If that’s not you – you’re not interested in self-employment, you’re just watching this because you’re a supportive family member, thank you. I love you. But don’t worry about if you don’t need to subscribe. But if you know someone who is self-employed or wants to be and could benefit from having a sidekick, point them in my direction. And you have any specific questions or ideas for a topic I can address, or an interview connection – drop me a line! I love getting feedback and learning how I can improve.

Thank you for joining me for another Thankful Thursday. We’re six weeks into this now. It’s really been an interesting exercise. It’s been great to reflect on my life, the people who are in it, and reestablished some connections. I reconnected with my old mentor Britt Jones after waaay too many years and had a great conversation with him. I might even work together on a couple projects in the future.

I would highly encourage you to try this out. Reach out to someone. And say thank you. I’m pretty sure only good stuff can come from it.

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