February 15, 2011

A Bad Day

Here's how Ellie feels when she's having a bad day. She's saying, "Don't mess with me. I ain't in the mood."

We all have those days. They remind us that we can't control everything and that overall, we've actually got it pretty good. They keep us somewhat grounded.

I'm not talking about a day during which you have a couple of minor setbacks that don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, a simple flat tire on the way to work or something like that. We can deal with that and move on. I'm referring to the kind of day that starts with a nasty shaving cut and spilled coffee on your new shirt to go along with the early-morning argument you have with your significant other, proceeds to a dead car battery that you could easily give a jump if you could find your jumper cables, which necessitates a tow to the shop where you find out the problem is actually an $800 repair job for a new fuel pump, and you have to meekly ask to borrow your still-upset significant other's car so you can make it to work, already knowing you'll catch some flak for missing an important meeting, and then experience the flat tire on the way to the office. And all this before 9 AM. These are the days when Murphy's Law is in full effect. Thankfully, they don't come along very often.

I had a bad day last week. I had car problems which did indeed turn into an $800 repair. I missed the call from Brady's preschool teacher about a tea party we hadn't heard about, so he was the only kid there without a parent. I felt terrible. I finally got to work and had phone problems. No spilled coffee or flat tires, but still one of those days.

For no particular reason, this got me thinking that there should be a scale by which to measure the level of badness in a bad day, so just for fun, I decided to dream one up. Scales can be fun; they give us order from chaos, a way to measure things, or, if you're a snake, a skin that's highly conducive to slithering. A scale is also a very ill-advised Valentine's Day gift to give your gal; that's a great way to get your gift thrown in a dumpster and your butt thrown on the couch for a few days. The Biggest Loser has highly-distressed industrial-strength scales. Earthquakes have the Richter scale. And why should those scales get to have all the fun? So for bad days, I've invented the Paris Scale.

On this scale, bad days are ranked from 1 to 10, with "1" being a nagging hangnail and "10" being a day in which you wake up to discover that Paris Hilton has been elected President, created cabinet positions for each of her BFFs, and changed the color of all nuclear weapon triggers from red to pink because red is SO 2006. Admit it; you'd be hard-pressed to think of a worse day.

My day last week was maybe a 5 on the Paris Scale, certainly not fun, but I'm over it. It brought to mind, however, a day about a year and a half ago that would have probably ranked a good deal higher, and here's the kid tie-in to this rather long post. The funny thing about that day is that I only remember two things about that day in particular: first, that it was just a rough day in general, and second, that it was the day Brady decided to call 911.


My wife was at home with a slightly colicky baby Ellie and a three-year-old Brady, who was discovering his independence and the wealth of practical knowledge he had at his fingertips. My wonderful wife is a remarkably competent mom, but a colicky baby mixed with a precocious toddler is a recipe for stress that would be taxing to anyone, and I knew we had issues when I got a panicky call from her as I pulled into our street on the way home from work.

We had been talking to Brady the previous day about what to do if there was an emergency, but I don't think we had laid out the ground rules quite clearly enough. Apparently, he called 911 twice while my wife was in the other room with Ellie, and of course, the police have to respond to a call like that. I never found out why he did it, but when you pull into your driveway to find a police car and two officers inside your house, the "why" doesn't matter. I felt like a horrible parent, like my son was entering a life of crime fresh off of potty training, like the police thought we abused our kids, but when the cops left and we'd had some time to cool down, we got to do some snuggling on the couch and talk about the lesson Brady had learned. Needless to say, he won't do that again. The Day The Cops Came made quite the impression on him.

Ever had a really bad day as a parent? Where would it fall on the Paris Scale? I'd love to hear about it, as long as it doesn't involve chihuahuas in pink sweaters. That's just wrong.


  1. Yes, I've had bad days as a parent. Usually they have less to do with my children, and more to do with what's going on inside my heart. These are days when I am short with my children, when I long for [their] bedtime, when my own little kingdom is thrown into chaos because my kids, who need all the affection I can give, are simply being kids.

    These are the days when I feel like -- no, when I *am* -- a failure as a parent.

    Thankfully, there's grace for Days Like This. And tomorrow, and the next day, I will be better at loving them.

  2. Well said, sir. That's about all that needs to be said.

  3. Oh, man. There are too many. But the one that still makes me remember the dead feeling inside is the day after Christmas when my son was apprehended at Target with his best friend because they were shoplifting. My heart fell through the soles of my feet when Target Security called and asked me to come and pick up my son.

    I blamed me. I blamed him. I blamed God. I lived. I forgave him, but still made him take back the Christmas present he'd given me, though he argued that we'd paid for it by making restitution. To this day, I avoid watching that STAR WARS movie because it awakens too many memories. That is long past and my son is a responsible father, husband and works in a responsible job. But THAT day; THOSE words; THAT feeling of nausea will be one that I never forget.

    That was about a 10+...and I could make a joke, but this set off the memory and about this one thing, I can't find it within myself to joke.