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Life Lessons From National Son’s Day

Life is short.

We hear this phrase all the time, but it might be hard to believe in 2020—which sometimes feels like the year that will never end. While the pandemic has canceled most family’s plans for a big vacation, I was determined not to let it stop me from finding a safe way to spend quality time with my son. The precious time that we can dedicate to our children during these meaningful, formative years is so astonishingly short. We have to make the most of it in any way we can!

A few weeks ago, my son Owen and I attended the Father and Son Weekend at Rockmont Camp in North Carolina, which just happened to coincide with #NationalSonsDay. This intentional time away was a breath of fresh air from our daily routine of working and learning from home. We participated in activities like archery, riflery, rock climbing, and even zip-lining.

Upon check-in at the camp, the dads were encouraged to leave our phones in our cars. At this moment, I had a profound pause to reflect and appreciate this stage in my life. When I worked for larger firms, stepping away from my lifeline to work would have been out of the question. I used to feel guilty for even taking a vacation, let alone completely unplugging for a weekend with family. However, as the owner of my firm, I can make the executive decision to unplug with the peace of mind that I won’t receive any backlash from my boss—maybe except for my wife, Marlo, if she’s trying to reach me!

While staying disconnected did lead to some sleepless nights at the camp, overall, it was a rejuvenating experience to get back in touch with the more simple joys in life. The camp directors focused on the concept of “wild vs. wise.” Both the fathers and sons were encouraged to step out of our comfort zones and try something adventurous, like jumping off the high dive, riding the zipline, or climbing the rock wall. We have spent a large part of 2020 emphasizing the importance of education (a.k.a. the wise side) with the shift to homeschooling and virtual learning. This camp experience was an impactful reminder that we also have to nurture our children’s wild side.

I had a particularly proud-father moment during our weekend away. At one of the camp council meetings, the camp leaders recognized my son Owen and a few other campers for their strength of body and mind. My son usually never turns off and is continually observing the world around him with intensity. He was recognized for “always living where his feet are,” which is a positive because he’s not overly worried about what happened in the past or what will happen in the future. At that moment, I realized that my son has so much to teach me about life and living for the present. This is a lesson I plan to carry with me in the days, months, and years to come.

As the other dads approached me with congratulatory remarks, I was reminded of what an exceptional privilege it is to make these memories with my family. Far too often, you encounter fathers who want to “escape” their family for a fishing trip or a day on the golf course. Having the freedom to choose to spend time with my son and genuinely enjoy our weekend together without distractions was a blessing all of its own—until I got back to my phone and checked the score of the FSU game that is! I encourage you to treat your children’s growth and development as a top priority in life, especially after this year that has thrown far too many curveballs our way.