Since Lilah was born six years ago, we have had so many wonderful life events together — and there are many more to come. On the other hand, there are “Lilah life events” that I dread. In the latter category, right up there with her first date, is the Career Day where I would have to explain to Lilah and her classmates what I do for a living.
Look — I am proud to be a CPA and it has been very good to me (and, I hope, to my clients). But have you ever seen an action show based on the daring exploits of a Certified Public Accountant? Me neither.
That dreaded “Career Day” arrived last month, and Lilah was insistent I speak to her class about being a “Sleepy A” (I love her pronunciation — there is plenty of time to fix that). So in a sign-up period that stretched over a month, I signed up in the last spot available, stalling for time. It was not lost on me that no other parents who were CPAs (or lawyers) signed up at all — cowards! So it was left to me to carry the banner for the profession.
In the days leading up to my presentation, I got a daily download about the fantastic presentations from Griffin’s mommy (TV celebrity), Bobby’s daddy (engineered Downtown Disney), Cameron’s daddy (USC football), and Gabby’s daddy (video games). I was feeling the pressure. I had visions of Lilah wearing a bag over her head for the rest of her school life.
The day arrived. Thirty future “Sleepy As” were gathered at my feet just waiting to be talked out of being firemen, presidents and athletes as Lilah introduced me. Even before I spoke, there was an opening question (I must already be making an impression): “Are you Lilah’s grandpa?” asked a little girl. Lilah’s teacher fielded that one for me as Lilah’s suddenly shaken Daddy regrouped.
Deep breath — and I attacked this as the most important presentation I have ever had to make.
“Hello Room 3. I am Mr. Schulte and I am a Certified Public Accountant, or as it is called — a CPA. (Here I started handing out my business cards.) I know you have all had some real cool presentations this last month from Griffin’s mommy who we all see on TV, or from Gabby’s daddy who makes some real cool video games, or from Bobby and Cameron’s daddies who also have some real great jobs. But you know what they all have in common right now? They are all picking up their iPhones and calling their CPAs and screaming “HELP!!! (I yelled so that even the back row heard.) Why are they calling their CPA’s pleading for help?”
“Let me show you. Sydney, come up here. Your mommy is a real successful attorney — right? (She nodded.) So a client pays your mommy for a job well done — $10 (which I hand to Sydney in 10 $1 bills all fanned out). And so mommy can now take Sydney and her brothers to Disneyland, and out for ice cream and put away something for savings—right?” (Sydney is smiling and nodding.)
“Now Chelsea, you are President Obama. And you say, Not so fast, Sydney. I need some of your $10 for taxes. Taxes are what pays for America to run.’ President Obama —please take $5 from Sydney. (As Chelsea takes half the dollars, I thought Sydney was going to cry — these kids were now understanding life.) Sydney — how are you going to go to Disneyland, have ice cream and save some money now? (Sydney sadly shrugs her shoulders — the kids are getting it!) You know what you have to do — call Super CPA!” (Here I did my best Superman jumping into the scene of the crime.)
“Mr. President — did you know that Sydney’s family owns their house? Give her back $1 (as I take a dollar from Chelsea and hand it to Sydney). Did you also know they put money away for retirement? Please give her back another dollar. And did you know Sydney’s family also puts away money for her college? Please give her back another dollar. Now Sydney — you have kept $8 thanks to Super CPA!” (I strike a superhero pose.)
I look to my audience and see smiling faces and knowing nods. I see Lilah’s teacher and she gives me an enthusiastic thumbs up. These kids got it! They really got it. I took my worst fear head on and conquered it. I look to Lilah and I see pride all over her cute little face. I see a six-year-old hand raised in the back of the class and I take the question — I don’t want this moment to end.
“My Daddy has been to Texas.”
I look for help from Lilah’s teacher, not knowing how to handle a non sequitur from a six-year-old. Fortunately, the teacher speaks the language of kindergarten.
“Mr. Schulte was talking about taxes — not Texas.”
OK. Maybe they didn’t get it. But I tried. Now I can concentrate on how to handle Lilah’s first date. No hurry — I have many years to plan that one.
After serving as managing partner of Los Angeles-based RBZ for a decade, Tom Schulte stepped down when Lilah was born. He is now the partner-in-charge of the RBZ nonprofit practice, and never misses a game, recital or Lilah life event.
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