Willie Geist, host of NBC’s Sunday Today and co-host of Morning Joe, was just named a 2018 “Father of the Year” (alongside Mario Lopez) by the National Father’s Day Council. But in honor of Father’s Day, the dad of Lucie, 11, and George, 8, with wife Christina, decided to get real about a time when he perhaps wasn’t as deserving of the designation. Below is his story, as told to PEOPLE.
This is three or four years ago, and my wife was going away on a girl’s weekend. So it was me solo with the kids, which is fine, I never have a problem with that. But so her approach is sort of, “I shouldn’t have to leave you a list of things to do. They’re your children.” Which I think is wise. She’s like: “Yeah, just have a good weekend with the kids.” I’m like: “Got it, no problem.”
But I know that when I asked a little question here or there – and this is a loving, husband/wife thing – that it would annoy her a little bit if I asked basic questions. So I would temper her with a few things, and then as she was walking out the door with her suitcase in hand, I yelled to her, “Babe, one last thing: What do they usually eat? What do kids eat these days?” And she looked at me and said, “They’re not exotic pets, they’re your children.” And she slammed the door in my face.
So that was a good start to the weekend! And when you feel like you’ve got the weekend to fill, you become a cruise director. You’re just constantly booking stuff to do. No hanging out and watching TV. In the span of one Sunday, we first went to the Central Park Zoo, where they were just walking around the park, and petting goats, and horses, and all the other things you pet at a petting zoo.
Then my next move after that ran out was to head down to Lucky Strike Lanes. So we got our hands into some widely-used bowling balls, while eating mozzarella sticks, and chicken fingers, and just going back and forth from the bowling ball, to the chicken tenders right into your mouth.
And then my last big play was to go to the Dave and Buster’s in Time Square, where people from all over the world bring not only their appetite for a good time, but their germs from all over the world. So they’re touching everything. They’re in a ball pit, all of the stuff you can do at Dave and Buster’s. So huge, great weekend.
I got the kids to bed on time, felt like I crushed it. My wife got home and she was like, “How’d it go?” I was like, “It was amazing. We had this great weekend.” The next morning, I get up early, go to work, and I get a text on the set of Morning Joe at probably 6:30 AM. And my wife’s like, “What did you guys do yesterday?” I said, “Oh, we had a great day. Why?” And she said, “They’re both violently ill.” One of them got up and left a trail of tears through the house before she made it to the bathroom. And my son was shivering in bed with my wife.
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So she’s like, “What did you do?” I said, “Nothing, we just went to a petting zoo, bowling, and the Dave & Buster’s in Times Square, and touched everything we could get our hands on, and then had lunch.” And she was like, “Wow, I guess I can’t leave anymore. I can’t leave without coming home to this crime scene.” So she, I think, would tell you that, that weekend, although my heart was in the right place, was a parenting fail, and that maybe at least I should have brought some germ wipes or something along for the day.
So from where I was sitting, I did a great job, great job that weekend. But not from where she was sitting the next morning.
Lessons learned. Let’s turn it into a positive. Let’s bring the wife. Let’s maybe not do bowling and the mozzarella sticks on the same day as the petting zoo and the Dave & Buster’s. Maybe let’s pick one of those. So I think I learned my lesson, and my wife laughs about it now. I don’t think she was laughing that morning, but she’s able to laugh about it now.
There are always gonna be fails, because we’re all learning on the job. When you leave the hospital with your little baby in a car seat, and the nurse says to you, as ours did, “Good luck!” You’re like, “‘Good luck?! Good luck?!” There’s no manual. There’s no guide. It’s the most precious, and complicated thing anyone could ever do, and you just have to go do it. So, I think as long as you have the fail together, and you learn from it together, and you laugh about it together, the fails are kind of part of the fun – believe it or not.