In his twenties and thirties, Randy had no kids, so his niece and nephew, Laura and Chris, became the objects of his affection. Randy spoiled them, but that’s not all he tried to do—he also tried to get them to “look at their world from strange new angles,” and Randy also tried to impart his perspective on life to them, which drove Tammy crazy. One day, when Chris was seven and Laura nine, Randy picked them up in his brand new convertible. When Tammy gave Chris and Laura a lecture about not making a mess in the car, Randy casually opened a can of soda and poured it all over the cloth backseats. Chris and Laura’s jaws dropped, and Randy said he was glad he did that, because later in the weekend, when Chris got sick and threw up all over the backseat, he didn’t feel guilty at all.
Randy uses his sister’s lecture as an opportunity to teach his niece and nephew a lesson they’d never forget (and one that his parents long ago taught him): that material things, in the end, aren’t significant. Because Randy took the time to demonstrate this, his niece and nephew were able to enjoy their weekend without feeling guilty when Chris threw up on Randy’s car. For Randy, love is always more important than possessions.
Randy says that when he would take his niece and nephew on adventures, there were only two rules: No whining, and, whatever they’d do, no telling mom. This second rule made every excursion into a “pirate adventure” so that “even the mundane could feel magical.” Randy, Chris and Laura liked making pancakes, but Randy’s dad had always asked, “why do pancakes need to be round?” So, Randy and the kids made pancakes of all shapes and sizes, amusing themselves by guessing what animal each pancake looked most like.
The “no telling mom” rule is a terrific example of attitude and positivity impacting how you interact with the world: turning mundane activities (like making pancakes) into adventures is all about having a positive attitude and being creative with your perception of the activity. To transform pancake making, for example, all Randy had to do was to turn it into a secret activity and make the pancakes look like animals.
Randy, reminiscing while writing the book, says he’s especially grateful that he was able to spend so much time with his niece and nephew, as he will never be able to watch his kids grow up in the same way. Recently, Randy asked both Chris and Laura to do him a favor—after he’s gone, Randy wants them to take his kids and “just do stuff,” anything fun they can think of, like he did for them. Also, Randy wants Chris and Laura to tell his kids that Randy asked the two of them to spend time with the kids, and that Randy fought as hard as he could to stay alive because he wanted to be around his kids as long as possible. Also, Randy adds, if his kids mess up their cars, he hopes Chris and Laura will think of him and smile.
Just as Randy was able to teach Chris and Laura lessons that helped shape their beliefs and attitudes, Randy hopes Chris and Laura will do the same for his kids. In other words, he wants Chis and Laura to pass on a feedback loop of ideas, behaviors and attitudes. This feedback loop started long before Randy, and hopefully it will be passed down further by Randy’s own kids when they one day have children or students of their own.