Vail Daily column: A parent’s fear and pride
Ryan Summerlin July 11, 2014
The company announced this week that it picked up a new business and my son will run it.
Damn right I’m proud of him. It’s the first crystal clear sign to a rather dense old dude of the kid exceeding him. And so early. Whoa.
The kid is managing two businesses at an age younger than when I became a cub reporter at a little weekly in the sawmill Sierra north of Lake Tahoe. I could barely type, and the folks running the paper set my prospects at 50-50 tops for picking up journalism on the fly before they just had to fire me and put us all out of our misery.
The only thing I did young was tear up my knee enough to ensure that firefighting fell out of the career picture seven years in.
You’ll have to indulge me this week. The Fourth of July surge (and attendant craziness) is upon us, the week is short, and I have to write something. My pride, hopes and yes, fears, for our eldest fill center stage of my mind right now.
He’s been on a good run since college. Our Christmas letters these days will make you gag, with his sister just having finished school like her brother — with a couple of degrees, honors, productive extracurricular life, blah, blah.
They get it all from Mom. Dad remains unpapered. All he brings is a poor sense of what he can’t do.
Now, I could get the kid an interview with one of the big bosses. I thought he might have a feel for this thing, having labored on our copy desk as a teen and other indicators — like once selling lollipops for double the price at the other high school to help raise funds at his school.
But he had to pass a battery of interviews and especially the aptitude testing on his own to land a chance as a seller in the crappiest little territory in the company, in one of the very hearts of the Great Recession in Nevada. He nearly tripled the territory. That perked some ears.
Nepotism policies have shielded him from the old man as he moved from sales positions in Carson City and Summit County to managing the Grand Junction Free Press, a tiger’s tail in a region still mired in recession.
So now he also has the responsibility to guide Wheels & Deals, a West Slope shopper focusing on autos that was based in Grand Junction.
Believe me, the big bosses would never dream of putting me on that job, and this finally caught my attention.
I imagine it’s hard enough on the execs as it is that ol’ editor has his hand on the tiller of the good ship Vail Daily. The thing is, though, they know I have solid support from people who really are smarter than I am, even if some of them happen to be crazier, too. I just have to blunt some of the crazy while getting out of the way of the smart.
That’s simpler than the kid’s twin mission.
I’m proud that he has worked his way into position to be considered for the opportunity. He got to help with the due diligence and mapping out how to best manage the acquisition once we took it over. And he’ll figure out how to balance his effort with two hefty challenges.
Eventually, though, we all hit our bumps, take our lumps and have to learn how to pick ourselves up from the ground.
I took the Will Rogers route, and the long way at that. You know the line: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
Or put in a more earthy way: “Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.” (How do you think Will learned that one?)
Plenty of people my son’s age have larger challenges. Service in Iraq and Afghanistan springs to mind. Same with successes, talents and so on. Ball players, musicians, actors, business wunderkinds.
But I’m not related to any of them. So I don’t watch from afar, hoping they don’t get cocky, kick a cow chip, find themselves knocked on their backsides. I don’t have to worry about them.
The thing about parents that never changes is being full of admittedly stupid advice that our progeny already know and most definitely don’t need.
But hey, I can’t help it. With congratulations came the usual homilies not to screw it up, including this fatherly classic he’s heard since Little League: “If you are going to go down, make sure you go down swinging, hard.”
In Little League, he stepped out of the batter’s box, glared and signaled his Dad to, um, refrain. Then he laced a base hit into leftfield.
I should have learned the lesson then.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at email@example.com and 970-748-2920.