It’s easy when the kids are little and look upon Dad as being someone omnipotent and omniscient, but there does come a day when the bloom comes off of the rose and they recognize that Dad is as fallible as anyone else. And then there are the instances when the screw-up is sufficiently embarrassing that Dad has to wonder how it’s going to really appear. Such was the occasion a week ago when the website’s domain name registration expired because this Dad wrote the wrong date on the calendar.
This website has existed for five years and now holds approximately 600 essays and articles, all original, and the kids know that I try to find time to get away and write; it’s now my outlet. So I was severely non-plussed to go to the site over a week ago and find that it had been deactivated, the homepage pasted over with some stock page that listed other terms involving the word practical. After the initial shock and a momentary fear that five years of writing had gone down the proverbial tubes, I slowed myself down and walked through what had happened. The articles and site were still there, but it was as though a shutter had been thrown across the storefront. The next thought was a simple question: how do I explain this screwup to the kids? My wife is an adult with enough experience to recognize that occasional gaffes occur and that when they do, we fix them and move on. The kids are also old enough to recognize this, but it was pointedly embarrassing on this front since I actively promote awareness of what’s going on around them. What is your schedule and when is something happening or due? What’s your deadline? What are the consequences when something doesn’t happen that should? This screwup played right to the heart of what I actively try to teach.
So what to do?
Instead of hiding it, I frankly admitted that I’d screwed up royally. It was painfully embarrassing to admit to the kids that I’d blown it, making an error as simple as getting the date wrong. But if my principal job is to prepare the kids for living in the great wide world, then it’s my responsibility to share both positive and negative lessons. What are the consequences of this goof? Are they permanent or is it fixable? What are the lessons for this particular and what can I illustrate with them? Each will take something different away than another. For Youngest, it was a lesson in global business as the server is housed with an Australian firm that years ago purchased the American company that had granted the original domain name; not only that, but my subsequent actions were taken with their operations center, which the Australians had outsourced to the Philippines. Yeah son, it’s kind of like that show that NBC cancelled about a call center in India, "Outsourced". For the older two, it’s been more of a question of managing to not panic and working the problem, walking through the issues. How far ahead is Manila from here in terms of time? Do I need to contact my credit card company in advance to verify that the charge coming through is legitimate and not fraud? By the way, the answers to the two respective questions are 13 hours and yes.
The conversations haven’t been extensive and filled with angst; they’re already well aware that Dad goofs. But there’s no sense in hiding the error, either. Because any corrective actions should it have been a fatal error – website relaunch, et cetera – would have required coming up with cover stories that would’ve been impossible to keep straight.
And that’s the big lesson for the kids. Acknowledge the error, take the hit to the ego and move on.