Playground Perspectives: Just You and Me (August 2011)

"I want a special Daddy and Thea day," my three-year-old said to me several weeks ago. This heart-warming request came on the heels of a heart-breaking week -- hysterical mornings complete with meltdowns, tears and plaintive pleas that I not go to work.

And so we have carved out some blocks of time during the weekend where Thea and I hit the mean streets of #RVA to run errands and explore together.

There's something special about being alone with her for a block of time; during exceptionally busy weeks, I might see her for an hour at each end of the day -- and we're usually very focused on getting dressed, eating or wrapping up the day.

We don't do anything exceptional during these Daddy and Thea jaunts. Generally we hit the coffee shop, maybe a farmers market. We'll visit her Omie (my mom) for a spell. The library, the playground, the grocery store -- these are a few of our typical excursions. This past weekend, we made fresh grape juice and tomato sauce together. She had a blast!

We both value this time. Certainly, she seems to enjoy herself when we're together. It eases a bit of the jealousy I sometimes feel during the week when Nikole updates her Instagram photo stream with gorgeous photos of Thea at the beach or playing in the house. It reminds me just how important it is to create individual time with people -- those we love, those we influence, those we value, those we lead.

We like to pretend that we're too busy to create connections and nurture relationships, that those things will take care of themselves. Wrong answer.

When I worked at Luck Stone Corporation, Charles Luck demonstrated the value of relationships constantly. Way back in the day, he and his dad used to hop in the car and drive to quarries in western Virginia. They'd have lunch together overlooking the quarry operation, then meander down and spend the afternoon talking to the employees who made their business run.

When I arrived at Luck Stone in 1996, Charles was ceding his own leadership to his son, Charlie -- and passing along the same lessons he learned with his dad: People matter. Let them know.

Charles would drop by my office every month or so, or stop in the parking lot to chat. He knew Nikole's name, and later Thea's, and asked after them. We'd compare notes on #RVA restaurants -- he and his wife, True, were fans of some great downtown spots. The day before I left Luck Stone, Charles spent an hour in my office just catching up, reminiscing, reminding me that I was appreciated -- during the toughest month of his business life, he was still making time to connect with others.

That visit meant so much to me. I hope my weekend escapes with Thea also have a lasting impact.