"My dad isn't perfect," Kristen, my 12-year-old homeschooled daughter, wrote as her opening sentence of a creative writing project. "I know that now."
Uh-oh. This can't be good.
Grasping the concept of parental fallibility is an early warning sign of approaching teen-hood and is NOT a welcome development. Still, the full essay gave me hope that my little girl is gonna be OK well into adulthood ... and not be part of the 47 percent. As Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the story.
Kristen apparently recently heard about how my wife and I saved up money all summer long while working at the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, in 1986 so we could take a cross-country trip after the summer and before we had to go find work somewhere else for the winter.
It was a great trip that included three separate football games (two pro, one college), Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument, Devil's Tower, Little Big Horn, Yellowstone National Park, San Francisco ... and ended up in Los Angeles, where we left the car with a friend while we flew over to Hawaii.
Now here's the part where I lost my perfectionication.
We ran out of money.
"Hearing about this surprised me," Kristen wrote. "Sure, I was pretty disappointed in my dad. Alright, really disappointed. I would have never thought him capable of a mistake like that."
Ouch. That sort of thing hits a dad right in the heart ... as every father out there with a daughter can fully appreciate. But hang on...
So the choice facing my wife and me in Hawaii was: (a) Phone home and borrow money, or (b) get jobs and spend the winter working in Waikiki to earn enough money to get back home in the spring.
Anyone out there think we didn't go with option B?
Which is what saved me from a lifetime of disappointment in my little girl's eyes.
"This is what changed my perspective of my dad," Kristen concluded. "He made a mistake, but he fixed it. While I badgered him for details, he also told me he and my mom had the most fun while they were actually working in Oahu, and that 'When you screw up, it's your job to fix it.' My dad isn't perfect. He faces challenges and sometimes he fails. But he never gives up."
Was it hard to read that my little girl was disappointed in me? Oh, yeah, baby. Big time.
But that the real-life lessons that (a) you have to fix your own screw-ups, and (b) it's OK to fail as long as you never give up apparently have been imprinted in her psyche more than make up for it.
Now hand me a tissue, will you please?
• Chuck Muth is president of CitizenOutreach.com.