Benny’s rich dad paid his court-ordered child support and a round-trip ticket for Benny’s yearly visit.
“What does everybody expect? I do have three kids and I have more than a full-time job,” dad used to say about his role in his kid’s lives.
Benny often thought about his dad’s statement. Yes, the three kids from different mothers did fly to dad’s luxurious home, very different from his home, once a year during the summer. They all arrived at the same time so they could entertain and get to know each other. Even then, they rarely saw dad. He gave them plenty of money, a chauffeur to go where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do.
Benny remembered one time, yes, only one time when he actually got a one-on-one visit with dad. Dad sent a letter detailing their three days together – a trip to Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, then a drive up the coast with stops along the way. Benny thought back. He was about ten if he could remember correctly. He had been so excited.
Benny’s hope soared high as he packed his bag. Mom gave instructions on the way to the airport, which sounded more like a list of do’s and don’ts. The tone in her voice made him apprehensive. “Did she expect problems?”
On the plane, his apprehension drifted away and excitement took over again as he watched the clouds roll past his window. The pilot finally announced they would be landing at LAX in 15 minutes. He watched out the window as LA came into view then multiple planes landing and taking off on different runways. Finally, they taxied to the terminal. Benny strained to see all the faces in the terminal window looking for that one particular face.
Excitement Turns To Dread
First in line to exit the plane, the stewardess pulled him aside to wait until the other passengers disembarked. His excited mounted even more as the last passenger exited the plane. He started down the jetway only to feel the tug on the back of his shirt. He turned to see the stewardess shaking her head.
“You have to wait for me,” she said.
“Why? My dad’s out there.”
“I’m sorry, but he’s not here. He called and asked us to watch you until he arrives.”
His face dropped as tears began to form in his eyes. How many times had he heard those same words coming from the housekeeper, the chauffeur, or whomever? He looked at the clock in the terminal, 1:00 pm. He wondered how long he’d have to wait this time.
The stewardess found a seat for him close to the gate check counter. He reached into his bag and pulled out his phone. Mom asked him to text when he got to LAX.
“At LAX. No Dad.”
Benny curled up to watch the people going through the gate until he fell asleep. He woke when someone shook him. He looked up expecting to see his dad, but not yet. The stewardess asked if he was hungry. As he gathered his bag he looked at the clock, 6:00 pm.
“When’s my dad going to get here?” he asked.
“He just called and said it would be a couple more hours. We told him we’d feed you. What do you want? We have hot dogs, pizza…”
“I’m not hungry.”
“You need to eat, so how about pizza then ice cream?”
More hours passed.
The rest of the one-on-one time with dad went much the same. Yes, they went to Knotts Berry Farm and Disneyland, but dad had the phone glued to his ear most of the time. Benny rode a few rides. But riding alone wasn’t much fun. Even at dinner, dad was on the phone. Benny looked forward to the ride up the coast only to be told he’d be flying back the next day.
The one thing his dad told him was firmly planted in his mind:
“Success isn’t free. Being rich takes work. You’ll have to be willing to sacrifice your time, sleep, everything. While your friends are having fun, you’ll be working.”
This statement played in the back of his mind for years as he grew to manhood.
All of us develop core beliefs during childhood that guide our decisions as we get older. They affect how we interpret events in our life and the world. They negatively or positively influence the way we think, feel, and behave.
Positive, healthy core beliefs serve us well. Whereas, the negative, unrealistic, often self-limiting beliefs hold us back from reaching our greatest potential.
It’s important to become aware of our core beliefs, examine, and change the negative beliefs that may be inaccurate or limiting.
Core Belief: “I have to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to be happy.”
Benny, like many others who grow up in relatively impoverished situations, thinks the only way to be happy is to be rich, like dad. Many who hold this negative core belief, but don’t have the wealth, live in unnecessarily large houses, drive luxury cars, wear expensive clothes, dine in “exclusive” restaurants, even if they can’t afford it, as a sign to others that they have “made it.”
Benny’s Negative Core Belief
After Benny’s unfortunate one-on-one visit with dad, he determined that being rich would give him the life he longingly looked at from a distance. He knew that if he had money he would give his son everything missing in his childhood. Being rich would make him happy.
Benny grew to resent his dad’s lack of involvement in his life. He began to feel that dad “owed him” for the love and attention he never got.
Dad, now passed on, did leave immense wealth for his kids to fight over. Dad had appointed the other son as executor over the estate, but Benny managed to get him removed, then the bank became the executor.
He often thought about dad’s statement regarding wealth. He’d smile. “I don’t have to work for it, you did. You owe me. My invoice to you, dad, for missed love and attention has become sizable, actually, your entire estate.”
Ben Now a Dad
Ben, now grown up, married with a son. They live in an unnecessarily large house on the hill overlooking their small suburb town. Ben always had some reason why he couldn’t work. But actually, he did work at getting more and more of dad’s estate.
Ben’s son, Jeremy, sixteen years of age was very much like Ben at age 16. Jeremy loved all kinds of sports, but dad had demanded he join a swim team at the country club in the large city close to them.
Jeremy didn’t like to swim. He wanted to play football on his school team, with his friends. But, dad was adamant about the swimming. Jeremy couldn’t figure out why.
It took them an hour to get to the country club, another hour back. The workout was grueling, even more so since he didn’t like to swim. Jeremy had had enough.
“This is my last day. I won’t be back,” he told the coach.
“Your dad has already paid for…”
“Send him a refund, I won’t be back. I’ve registered for football at my school. I have all my gear and I’m starting tomorrow. I won’t be back.”
“Please come with me to the office,” the coach said.
Jeremy tagged along, firm in his decision. The coach and the office manager talked behind closed doors, while Jeremy waited in the hallway.
He heard the office manager say, “Well, actually, that’s good. Ben is behind on his bill and we have several bounced checks from him. I called the bank where the money comes from and was told the account was tied up in litigation. I’ve tried calling Ben, but no response. He hasn’t come in personally for months. I really don’t want to talk to him. You know how he is, ‘look at me, I’m somebody,’ like he owns the country club.”
“I have several bounced checks from the restaurant. He actually owes us about a thousand dollars. I’ve been trying to collect, but the court has included his bill in the case and we can’t get any money until it’s settled.”
“Have you seen Jeremy’s car?” asked the coach. “It looks new. I bet it cost a pretty penny.”
Jeremy picked up his gear and hurried to his car, leaving before the coach came out.
As soon as Jeremy pulled into the driveway, he rushed to his dad’s office. His dad sat at his desk, right where Jeremy left him poring over documents on his computer.
“Dad, I quit the swim team today.”
Ben jumped out of his seat, rushing toward Jeremy who still stood in the office doorway. “You can’t do that,” he roared.
“Well, I already did. And by the way, you owe the country club several hundred dollars. How did that happen? I thought we had plenty of money from grandpa’s estate.”
Jeremy’s mother stepped into the doorway, “Tell him the truth.”
“It does come from grandpa’s estate, but my brother and sister, have sued the bank and the estate to get their fair share. The estate is locked in a court battle and we can’t get any money.”
“Tell him the truth,” his wife said again.
Ben collapsed in a nearby chair, “Yes, grandpa’s estate bought the house and our cars, including yours.” He paused, “The money we spend comes from the money I request for your swimming.”
“What do you mean?” Jeremy asked.
“Your swimming costs $200 per week. I request $1500 per week because I’m not allowed to request living expenses.”
“So, we’re living on $1300 per week, the money you’re not supposed to have. Isn’t that fraud?” Jeremy asked.
“Tell him all of it,” his wife demanded.
Ben Comes Clean
Ben cleared his throat as he slouched deeper into the chair, “Yes, it is fraud. I’m being sued for fraud. The bank is taking the house, the cars, everything. I will probably go to jail. Since my dad never had time for me I thought he owed me and I set out to collect. I devised a plan to get as much as I could out of the estate, thinking the money would make up for him not spending time with me. I was convinced the money, the house, the cars, the status, everything would make me happy.”
“Did it work? Are you happy?” Jeremy asked.
“No. Actually, I feel worse than I thought I could ever feel. I’m glad you know. I’m so sorry I’ve ruined your life.”
Ben hung his head. Jeremy walked over to him, putting his arm around his dad, “Thank you, Dad.”
Ben looked up with a question in his eyes, “For what?”
“Dad, thank you for being real with me for the first time in my life. I always felt like a phony. I’m glad I can be me instead of somebody else. The money doesn’t matter to me. I’d rather have a dad.”