Boys in the Boardroom

David Blankenhorn, Condé Nast Traveler, 12/1/1997

... I was touched that Raymond so clearly wanted to show me that he was up to the challenge. For the rest of the trip, I tried to make it clear to everyone, even the VIPs, that Raymond was part of the package. Almost no one seemed to mind. In fact, from nearly everyone I met on this trip – even Sister Anne – I got a lot of credit for having a child in tow. I've noticed that when a mother brings a child along on a business trip, eyebrows are frequently raised: Does she have the right stuff? But when a father does the same thing, he gets to run victory laps: Isn't it great that he's including his child? I recognize the double standard, though I'll take the credit anyway. I'm glad I took Raymond along, and I would do it again in a minute as long as my hosts were amenable. Our trip to Melbourne helped him see who his father is, and I learned something new about fatherhood. We were the survivors, and it brought us closer together. Besides, it was a lot of fun.

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Subjects: Family, Fatherhood

More by: David Blankenhorn

I took my six-year-old son, Raymond, on a two-week business trip to Australia because I wanted him to better understand what I do for a living. (My job, running a public-policy research institute, requires long hours and a lot of travel.) And I took him because I thought it would be fun and he really wanted to come along.

We lifted off from New York's Kennedy Airport, anticipating a 25-hour ride to Melbourne, only to discover that weather problems required us to spend an unscheduled night and half day in San Francisco – without any luggage. I was frustrated, but Raymond was in high spirits.

A day later, we missed our connecting flight in Sydney. Calling ourselves "the survivors," we speculated that a highly secretive organization devoted to screwing things up – C-TIP, or the Committee for the Torture of Innocent Persons – had infiltrated the airline industry. Arriving in Melbourne, tired beyond belief and wearing the same clothes that we had put on in New York, we raced directly from the airport to the church where I was to give a speech on the importance of fatherhood. We arrived with exactly three minutes to spare. Haggard but game, I talked. Raymond fell asleep in the front row.

Our host was the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was kept very busy – talks in churches, interviews with journalists, meetings with policy makers and other bigwigs. Raymond rarely left my side. But one morning, Sister Anne, who had been assigned by the archdiocese to look after us, said that she had arranged for a baby-sitter to take Raymond to the zoo instead; she felt that he was too young to accompany me to a meeting with the justices of the High Court. Raymond wanted to stay with me. Sister Anne strenuously objected: These were very important men! Raymond also felt strongly about the matter. I was embarrassed and tried to change Raymond's mind – "What's so bad about the zoo?" – but ended up letting him come along. It was the right choice. Rising to the occasion, Raymond behaved beautifully, and the justices enjoyed meeting him. And when I say bigwigs, I mean it – one of the justices let Raymond try on the wig that he wears in court.

A few days later, we had lunch in an ornate dining room on the top floor of the skyscraper owned by the National Australia Bank, one of the country's largest. There were many fine courses, wine and brandy, a terrific view of the city below, lots of big talk. Raymond loved the drama of it, but he had a hard time containing his disappointment when, instead of being served what everyone else was eating, he was presented with... peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and vanilla ice cream. He wanted to be treated like one of the group, not to be just the little kid tagging along. My heart went out to him. One reason for taking children on business trips is to let them participate in the adult world insofar as they're able. I was touched that Raymond so clearly wanted to show me that he was up to the challenge. For the rest of the trip, I tried to make it clear to everyone, even the VIPs, that Raymond was part of the package. Almost no one seemed to mind.

In fact, from nearly everyone I met on this trip – even Sister Anne – I got a lot of credit for having a child in tow. I've noticed that when a mother brings a child along on a business trip, eyebrows are frequently raised: Does she have the right stuff? But when a father does the same thing, he gets to run victory laps: Isn't it great that he's including his child? I recognize the double standard, though I'll take the credit anyway.

I'm glad I took Raymond along, and I would do it again in a minute as long as my hosts were amenable. Our trip to Melbourne helped him see who his father is, and I learned something new about fatherhood. We were the survivors, and it brought us closer together. Besides, it was a lot of fun.

This article originally appeared here.

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