The man and his boy sit at the table, the remains of dinner still scattered about. They sit in silence for a moment, digesting and picking teeth before the father breaks the meditation.
“Big day comin’ up, huh son? It isn’t everyday you graduate college.”
“Yeah I guess. I haven’t really thought about it much,” the boy responds.
The father ponders his next move carefully, not wanting to spark another fight.
“Have you, uh, given any more thought to what we talked about?” he timidly asks.
“Duh-ADD!” the boy exhales, sounding fifteen again.
“I know you don’t want to hear it, but I really think it’s something to consider. You yourself said you don’t have a plan right now and I know we could find a place for you.”
“But I don’t want a place! I don’t want your life!”
“Now son, hold on a minute….”
“No, you hold on a minute Dad! Grab a handful of minutes! I have dreams! Ambitions! I can’t give up on them just because it’s the “safe” thing to do.”
The silence resumes. The boy is embarrassed at using the word “dreams” in front of his dad. He hates to get so emotional but he feels unheard.
The man tries to recall if his oil needs changing this weekend or the next.
Next weekend for sure.
He finally breaks the second silence.
“Look son, I know you have big plans, and far be it from me to keep you from them, but you need to be reasonable. There’s nothing wrong with middle management.”
The boy groans in disgust.
“Yeah, maybe if you don’t mind TIES and….MEETINGS and….and….PORTFOLIOS!”
“Now hold on mister, there’s a lot more to middle managing than all the ties and meetings you see in Hollywood. Those movies make it look glamorous, sure, but you’re doing your country a service! What would happen if there were no middle managers? Well let me ask you this-ever yank out the middle piece of a Jenga tower?” he asked with a sly grin.
The son is not amused. He hates Jenga.
“It topples right over. Now imagine if that tower was America and the piece was middle management. Not so funny now, is it?”
“Was it ever?”
The father sighs, massaging his temples. He doesn’t know how to get through to the boy.
“Look son, I only want what’s best for you. I want you to experience the satisfaction that comes from managing people beneath you while also answering to an equal number of people above you. You are the cream filling of the corporate Oreo. That’s everyone’s favorite part!”
The boy slowly looks over at his old man. Cookies were a sure-fire way to grab his attention.
“But what if I’m not good at it? I didn’t do any internships in school and I barely passed MIDMGMT 5050. How can you think I’ll succeed?”
“Because it’s in your blood! Your ancestors were managing the middle as far back as written history. Squires, bishops, bourgeois nobles who were better than most but still had some who were better than them. When your great-grandfather was nine he was put in charge of all his friends in the steel mill. That kind of responsibility runs deep and it runs through you.” he says while placing his hand on the boy’s shoulder, causing his scowl to soften.
“Actually Dad, I have a confession. It’s, uh, kind of embarrassing.”
“What is it son?”
The boy looks at his feet as he mumbles out his words.
“For the past few months I’ve….been…..experimenting with….”
He swallows hard.
The father turns away so his boy can’t see the tears welling up.
After composing himself he manages to turn to his son and feebly asks