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Learned from my mistake

On Tuesday night, I was in Boston while Charlie played in his first playoff game of the season. I was sitting in the audience at a Moth StorySLAM, waiting for my name to be called. A client based in Boston knew that I had planned to attend the slam and wanted to finally meet me in person and watch me perform.

I was annoyed about missing the game. It wasn’t on the original schedule, so I hadn’t known about it when I scheduled myself to appear in Boston. But I hadn’t missed a game in two seasons, and given Charlie’s team’s record, I didn’t think they had much of a chance of winning.

Missing one game wasn’t going to kill me.

But then Charlie’s team won. Charlie hit the ball better than he has hit all season. I received text updates from Elysha throughout the evening but missed the whole thing.

Later, on the phone, I told Elysha how upset I was about missing the game. Why had I felt obligated to attend the slam? I could’ve simply told my client that my son was playing in a playoff game and couldn’t attend. My sense of obligation – I said I would be there, so I needed to be there – overrode my desire to be sitting along the chainlink fence, watching Charlie play.

Elysha’s advice was perfect:

I’m sorry that you missed the game tonight, honey, but let’s focus on Charlie and not you.

She was right, of course. It’s always good to have a partner who can knock you back down to earth. I put my disappointment aside and spent my time congratulating Charlie and helping him prepare for the big game.

Then came the news:

The championship game would be on Saturday.

My book launch extravaganza was also scheduled for Saturday. Elysha and the kids were going to play an important role in the festivities. Elysha wrote and recorded the foreword and deserved to be there. Tickets has been sold. The venue – The Connecticut Historical Society – had booked the night and scheduled employees to work the event. A bookstore – RJ Julia Booksellers – was sending an employee with books to sell. Lights had been rented. My production manager and intern were scheduled to work. The author of my afterword, Shep, and a friend, Jeni, were scheduled to appear, too.

I wouldn’t be able to cancel this. Too many people had already organized their lives on my behalf.

At first, all was well. On Thursday morning, it appeared that the game would be scheduled for Saturday afternoon, well before the book launch party. But later that day, the news came that the game would be played at 6:00 PM under the lights.

I was going to miss another game. A championship game. Elysha and Charlie would miss the book launch. I was so unhappy.

About an hour after resigning myself to missing the game, I was sitting at my desk at school when I thought, “Are you sure you can’t reschedule? You screwed this up once before. Maybe you can fix it this time.”

It would require the agreement of the venue. It would mean refunding dozens of people’s tickets. Canceling lighting. Asking the bookstore to reschedule. Finding a new date that would work for Shep and Jeni and my production manager. Disappointing a lot of people. Some probably hired babysitters for the night. Planned their Saturday around the party.

A lot of people would need to help me out in order to make it happen, so it was unlikely to happen.

Still, I had to try. I sent an email to Natalie, my contact at the venue first, explaining the situation and saying, ” I know it’s unlikely at this last minute that we can reschedule., but I have to ask.”

Her response, less than an hour later was this:

“That absolutely sucks. As a Little League mom, I feel this. In the age of Covid, cancelling an event isn’t something people are going to be shocked about. We have all our Saturdays in July open and could reschedule to that. The people who come to your events are Matthew Dicks followers, not CHS followers, so I’ll leave it up to you.”
Just like that, the door was opened. Within an hour, the event was rescheduled. Within 24 hours, everyone involved, including the bookstore, had agreed to the new date.
What once seemed impossible was suddenly done.
On Friday afternoon, I sent an email to my newsletter list and posted on social media about the rescheduling, knowing that many people plan to purchase tickets the day of the show. They would need to be alerted to the change.
The response was overwhelming. Instead of being annoyed, people were thrilled for Charlie’s team and incredibly supportive of my decision to reschedule. Kindness beyond compare.
My favorite response came from a reader in Toronto who was trying to decide if she should attend the show:
“I love your sense of integrity to walk your words. Enjoy and know that we support you in your decision.”
Words like this meant a lot.
Sadly, Charlie’s team lost last night. Charlie took it hard. So, too, did I. But I was so happy to be there for him, cheering him on during the game and cuddling on the couch later on, hoping to make him feel a little better.
I’m thinking about all of this because today is Father’s Day.
As parents, we make mistakes. Some of us make a lot of them.
I think one of the most important things we can do as parents is avoid repeating mistakes. Learn, grow, and move on. I made a mistake on Tuesday night, allowing a business obligation to supersede a family obligation. I worried about upending the plans of a client instead of being there for my son.
On Saturday, I upended the plans of a multitude of people. Surprisingly, they all supported my decision and made the rescheduling of my event almost seamless.
But had they not, I still would be happy today. I still wish that I had attended Charlie’s playoff game on Tuesday night, but I learned from my mistake and reacted differently¬† the next time. I was a better father on Saturday night because I decided to learn from my mistake and do better.
Parents are fond of beating themselves up for their mistakes. They can be incredibly hard on themselves.
On this Father’s Day, I’d like to propose that we treat ourselves with greater kindness and accept the fact that mistakes will happen. Our decisions will not always be perfect. But allow those mistakes to inform us about how to be better next time.
Our kids don’t expect perfection, but they expect us to do our best. Sometimes our best means learning, growing, and being better the next time.