As I was driving to the airport and rushing to catch a plane, my father sent me a text that said, “I’m going to come to your Plein Air Convention. I want to see what you do.”

I was blown away.

My dad was going to take his time and money to get on a plane and fly across the U.S., in order to be supportive of his son.

“That’s a great example of a great dad,” I said to my own son, who was riding in the back as Laurie drove me to the airport.

I texted back to find out if he needed a hotel room at the convention, and he replied that he had one at another hotel. I wasn’t sure when he was coming, but he asked when he should be there, and I suggested the opening of the convention and the next morning for Art Marketing Boot Camp.

That was the last I heard.

Midnight and a Sudden Text

Then, after arriving at my room at midnight the day before the convention started, I plugged my phone into the charger and noticed a text from my dad saying, “They don’t have my room.”

I assumed this meant he was in San Diego already, so just as I was about to call him back, my hotel phone rang. “Mr. Rhoads, there is a man here claiming to be your father, and he wants a key to your room.”

I ran down to the lobby and connected with my dad. Thankfully I had the presidential suite at the hotel because we were holding a VIP party for the six- and five-year attendees and faculty. So I requested a rollaway bed, offered him my king-size bed (which he refused), and we got him settled in.

Fast-Forward to the Future Me

Dad attended the opening and Art Marketing Boot Camp and wandered around the convention meeting friends and clients. In fact, I found him at a table at the bar with about six friends around him. One friend, Kathy Anderson, said, “This is eerie. I’m seeing you in 30 years.”

This experience has had me thinking about what a great dad and mom I have and how blessed I am to still have both of my parents.

It’s also made me question my own abilities as a father. What could I be doing that would be showing my kids that I support their interests? As a result, I’m trying harder to be more tuned in to what is important to them.

Raising kids is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, yet the most gratifying. Laurie and I have triplets (two boys and one girl) who are age 15.

Childhood Lessons

While thinking about how to be more deliberate and make sure I impart good information and wisdom to them, I draw on my childhood, and the lessons I observed from my parents and other mentors.

For instance, I think I got my work ethic from my dad, because he worked a lot. He once said that if you’re going to do something, you should be the best in the world at it. My mom imparted my creativity by encouraging me to paint and pushing me to try new things.

As kids, we had to work part of our summers at my dad’s company. That’s where I first started learning about marketing. “Always use full color, never black and white,” he would say. “You want to show your quality.”

My brothers worked in his factory and warehouse because they were a little older. I had to collate catalogues, test and try to break equipment, collate and assemble catalogue sheets, and I even learned to run a printing press. Summer after summer, we worked at the business, mowed other people’s lawns for income, washed cars, and did what we could to get some spending money or save for cars of our own.

Of course, we did not always love working at the time, but we got used to it, and we even got paid a little for it. Better still, we got the satisfaction of putting in a hard day and the sense of accomplishment that made us want to work more.

Working Trade Shows

Dad also used to make us work at trade shows. He would get permission for me to skip school, and I’d put on a suit and work his booth at McCormick Place in Chicago at the National Restaurant Association show. I had to shake hands, introduce myself, and show people how to use his restaurant equipment. I hated it at first, but over time grew to love interacting with people.

And he always made us put on suits and sit in on important business meetings, and in the meetings he would ask us what we thought, including us in important discussions, making us feel valued.

Though I’m not taking my kids out of school to work my events, you’ll see them at my Adirondack painters’ camp this coming June. They have worked registration since they were about 6, and today they have it down so well that I don’t need to lift a finger. They too griped about it in the beginning but now look forward to it.

Friend, Encourager, Challenger

The point of all this is that there is a delicate balance between being a friend, being an encourager, being a supporter, and challenging them and helping them develop a work ethic.

It’s really not just about kids, it’s about life.

Parenting, like life, is about challenging, helping people to find things within themselves that they don’t know are there, being supportive and encouraging, but pushing them to do things they won’t do on their own. Parenting, like life, is about showing up.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have been born to the parents I was given. Others have also been lucky, and some not so lucky. And though we get so much of our personality and ethic from our folks and other influential people like grandparents and friends, we can always find mentors we can emulate. I’ve had incredible mentors in business, in art and painting, and in marketing, who have given me examples of how to live an enriched life. Some mentors are close, others we see from afar through things like biographies.

The Never-Ending Task

The lesson this week for me is that parenting never stops. I received a lot of much-needed encouragement and support, and even though I’m well into my career and no longer a child or even a young adult, it felt good to be acknowledged and appreciated by my dad. I also received a note of encouragement from my mom, who saw the success on Facebook.

You may or may not have kids, but if you do, even if they are older, they still need you to show up and support and encourage them. They may not say they need it, but it sure feels good.

Your mission for this week?

Gratitude. Stop and think about what you have, or had, and be grateful for it. Even if it was not perfect, others do the best they know how to do.

Encouragement of others is a gift that not only explodes their self-confidence, it feels good to watch people light up. Encourage those around you.

My mission is to sit down and make a list of the things I still need to impart to my kids before they go off to college, and spend this summer working on those messages.

Have a great week. Thanks for sharing coffee with me this morning.