Marketing and Selling Part VI

There to Old to Stay By Themselves

Life is complicated, and sometimes it gets more complicated.  In the late 1980s, my life got more difficult when I took over running the Ceramic Supply business.  Then I had two companies to run. Then at the end of 1991, my first wife and I separated.  She took our youngest son, and my two teenage boys stayed with me.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was outnumbered.   One of the big problems was what to do with the boys when I went to market.  They were seventeen and fourteen and too old to stay by themselves.  I learned that lesson in two ways on my first trip to the Atlanta market in February of 1992.  My wife and I disagreed about whether the boys could or should stay by themselves.  She thought that they were capable of staying by themselves and I didn’t.   At the market, I told a friend that had raised seven children about the disagreement between my wife and me.  She asked me how old they were. When I told her, she immediately responded with the wisest statement I had heard concerning children staying home alone.  It was something that I had known on some deep level, but had not been able to enunciate.  She said:  “They are too old to stay by themselves.” She explained that there was a limited time and age that a child could stay home alone.  It all made so much sense, especially for my sons whose time that they could stay “home alone” safely only lasted about 24 hours.

Life is Full of Surprises

When I came home from that first market and opened the door, I immediately knew that something was wrong.  The house was entirely too clean.  I looked around carefully and began to notice things out of place. I found cigarette burns on the dining room table and mantel.  My sons had flexed their entrepreneurial muscles and held a for-profit party at our house while I was out of town.  I ended up losing my mountain bike, a knife a friend gave me, and an oriental rug that some of their guests came back for later. 

My Own Experience

My sons did not have the same sense of propriety that I had at their age. I held a party when I was in ninth grade while my parents were out of town, but I ended the party abruptly when I found a couple in my parent’s bed.  For some reason, my parent’s bed was sacred ground, and I couldn’t believe that anyone would take advantage of my house in that way. So I never held a party during my teenage years after that.  It made an indelible impression that my classmates would have so little respect for my home, and things could get out of hand quickly.

A Solution to the Problem

From then on, I began to take one of my sons along to the summer shows in Atlanta and Dallas, and they had to stay with their mother during the winter shows.  I hoped to get some help out of them at the shows, but this often didn’t happen.  However, it did become a good time for us to be together one-on-one.  Usually, after the Atlanta show, we would spend a night in New Orleans on the way home.  These were good father-son trips.  It gave us time together towards the end of their high school years when there wasn’t much time for one-on-one trips.

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