Live TV meets family life when BBC interviews Robert Kelly

Millions have seen and shared the clip of Professor Robert Kelly’s children entering the room in which he was doing a live television interview.

Do you remember bringing your children to work so they could see where ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’ worked? While you did your best to maintain focus in meetings and activities, the reality is children can be a distraction at work. And that is as it should be, serving as a gentle reminder that work is but one aspect of our life, and that family ultimately matters more.

But which of us would want to be in Kelly’s shoes? He didn’t bring his kids to work … he brought his work to home — which is a wonderful thing to do, made so much easier by technology.

The 43-second clip shows Kelly speaking prosaically about South Korean politics when his good-natured toddler suddenly comes dancing into the room and walks up to her father. Any parent watching can identify with that moment, and your heart goes out both to the child and her parent as you wait with anticipation for how this modern dilemma will be resolved.

The interviewer gently remarks, “I think one of your children’s just walked in” and proceeds to ask his question about South Korean relations with the North.

“What will it mean for the wider region?” asks the interviewer.

Keeping his eyes fixed on his webcam while pushing his daughter away, Kelly tries to maintain a semblance of professional composure. But then another child enters the room, followed by a woman who frantically slides into the room to drag the children away — and now you are more interested in relations between the Kellys rather than the Koreans.

Thousands have commented and shared the video. Headlines describe the professor’s interview as: “gatecrashed by children” … “Expert’s kids interrupt very serious live stream” and “Kids derail dad’s interview.”

What do you think about such analysis? Given that Kelly is clearly giving an interview from a room within his own home, is it really appropriate to describe his young children as “gatecrashing”? 

One top Facebook commenter asked: “Why is he so embarrassed about his kids? When his kid came in, I thought he was human. When he pushed his kids away and didn't even look at them, I thought he was an arrogant, self-centred idiot.”

While that may be an inaccurate assessment, you can appreciate the observation.

Another chimed in: “I'd be more worried about the way that woman dragged them kids out of there.”

Kelly apologises repeatedly. He clearly wants to continue the interview and maintain professionalism.

I rather suspect that what may become the most viewed footage of his entire career is not his sharing of some expertise, but rather his struggling to do so in the chaos of ordinary family life in a busy home.

Do you think he could have handled the situation more tactfully, and even kindly? Would you have taken a moment to take the child out of room yourself, or perhaps acknowledge her with a smile and ask her to leave the room “because Daddy’s busy”?

Somewhat paradoxically, at the moment Kelly tried to maintain his professionalism he faces a challenge to maintain his personalism. Unfortunately, not just for Kelly but for all of us, the business side of things wins out. And why wouldn’t it when you are talking to that venerable institution the BBC, being beamed and streamed around the world?

Let me be clear: I would not want to be in Kelly’s shoes, and may well have reacted in a similar manner. I have no doubt he loves his children dearly, as do the vast majority of fathers. Anyone can sit in comfort and suggest what may be a better course of action, but it’s very different when it’s you in the spotlight.

How would you act in such a situation? What might your response say about your character and priorities?

Let me leave you with a final question: Does your family interrupt or enhance your work?