I made a mistake last week and I’m still dealing with the aftermath.

Nora, my 6th grader, rocked her first 9 weeks at her new school and made all As.

This meant she received an invitation to join an honor society.

The invitation came with a letter encouraging students to review the expectations of members on the school website and have a parent pay a fee online.

While this invitation was very exciting, it was shared with me while I was in the middle of work (she walks home from the bus stop and, on occasion, I’m in a Zoom meeting). Hello, 2021.

When I reviewed the page and saw a November due date, I sighed in relief that I didn’t HAVE to focus on it right that moment but could set it aside for a few weeks (it must have been mid-October).

And then… I forgot about it.

Until November 3.

At which point I did a 6 a.m. scramble, found the paper, and realized we’d missed the deadline.


We’d reviewed the website, learned the honor society required community service, and had decided this would be an amazing opportunity for my little do-gooder who’d completed a 20+ hour-project for her Girl Scout Bronze award last year. It would also be a wonderful way for her to meet friends.

But I’d let the chaos that was attending 2 carnivals, 2 gymnastics classes, a birthday party, and trick-or-treating the week leading up to the deadline distract me from paying the fee.

So I sent an apologetic email to the sponsor and Nora said she’d ask one of her teachers.

We got mixed messages.

The response I got was a firm no, 24 hours later.

Nora was told she’d still be allowed in, but would miss initiation.

I responded to the email immediately to ask if there was truly no possible way for her to join, waited 4 days for a response, then tried again.

And again it was a solid no, with a fair explanation that even if I’d forgotten that the students had been reminded daily.

Nora says she remembers one reminder, but that her teacher is checking it to see if it’s really a no-go.

I’ve had ALL THE EMOTIONS about this.

I get that it’s an attempt to be fair.

And we’ll live with the consequence if there’s really no chance.

I’ve debated hand delivering a complaint to the principal’s office, but I’m not so much interested in making noise (and causing drama) as I am in undoing the mistake that now robs my child of an opportunity.

She’s less upset than I am.

And if it needs to be a lesson learned, she and I will have both learnt it:

The moment she gets an invite at the beginning of the next school year, I will be paying the $35 fee. No setting it aside.

But I’ve also told her something she’s not learning from this experience that is true in the real world: you can occasionally make a minor mistake like missing a deadline, recover with a sincere apology, continue to do good work, and still salvage the project.

Enough with my middle school moaning—what’s the newsletter lesson hiding in here?

As a creator, you’re going to make mistakes.

Don’t shy away from sharing your failures if they can serve others.

The intimacy of a newsletter—which IS A LETTER, right?—allows for moments of vulnerability.

What are you doing to help your readers see you as a flawed human being?

Check out this week’s Opt In Challenge (near the end of this issue) for more on failing in public… and enjoy all the good bits between here and there for your weekly dose of newsletter news and tips.

Ashley Guttuso  

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Happy newslettering,

Ashley Guttuso