Bad days: The worst contagion

Oct 8, 2008 at 9:41 a.m. ET

It was one of those days. Looking back, the alarm clock seeming like it went off five minutes after I'd crawled into bed was just the start. But it didn't necessarily feel like a bad day at the start; it was just another early morning, another round of breakfast and shuffling off to school.

Sad Little Girl
The kids were maybe only a little harder than usual to motivate out the door. Woody did almost miss the bus. Then traffic was horrendous and I was 30 minutes late for a meeting. My computer was being pokier than usual, so it was taking me twice as long to get anything done and no chance of completing everything on my list. I thought I had the crankiness under control though. I was actively thinking about making it better -- finding the positive, somehow, some way.

It was more than just me

Then Alfs called me. He was having a bad day, too -- like the bad day was contagious or something! His glasses broke, he'd spilled apple juice on himself at lunch, and he'd almost missed his bus stop on the way home when he fell asleep on the bus. And a couple of other things. His voice was so deflated. I certainly identified with the feeling. He asked if he could wait to start homework, and I said yes. A couple hours of down time might help him adjust his attitude. I'm not an unfeeling mom, you see -- and I figured helping Alfs out of his bad day could help make mine better. I did ask him to please put the pork chops in marinade.

Traffic was bad again on the way home. When I picked up Sunshine and settled her in the car, she started wailing almost instantly about some perceived wrong, and Woody chimed in with that voice that I so despise. Rather than losing my cool, I turned off the engine and exited the car for a few minutes to maintain composure and let the kids get back in control, too. I was determined to turn the day around. Still.

Though Woody and Sunshine weren't exactly perfect on the way home, I dealt with it. Upon arriving home, Alfs was still dour. But his voice and his attitude had turned from deflated to self-pitying and wallowing. And he'd completely ignored his dog for the previous three hours. This was taking the bad day a bit too far -- my sympathy for him was mostly over and he scrambled to take care of his basic responsibilities. Woody was still responding to everything with inexplicable indignity -- even simple requests to put his shoes away -- and Sunshine was whining at every turn. Every. Turn.

Trying to turn it around

I tried to refocus again. I tried. As I started to pull dinner together, I realized (too late, as I put it on the grill), that Alfs had put the chicken in the marinade, not the boneless porkchops.

Again, I tried to keep on, make the best of it. But when the burner on the grill went out in spite of plenty of propane in the tank, then the horrible sticking of the chicken to the grill itself. It was getting late. Everyone was hungry, and everything was going wrong.

I gave up. I called my husband and told him to find something on his way home for dinner. I felt horribly guilty about it, but I felt beaten down by the day. I couldn't muster a positive attitude any longer.

I'd like to say my husband saved the day, but I can't. He'd had a long, marginal day himself. We muddled through the rest of the evening, got Woody and Sunshine to bed - but then Alfs needed help with something homework-related. Due the next day, of course. Eventually, Alfs went to bed, and my husband struggled with technology to help Alfs.

By the end of the day, we were spent. It was a sucky day. It just was. I don't know who or where it started, but it certainly was contagious.

Some days suck - they just do

Some days are just...not good. No one thing is horrible, but the confluence of little sucky things, well, suck. As much as we try to make the best of them -- stop the spread of the bad day germ! -- some days just need to get over with. This was one of those days, as much as I tried to turn it around. Everyone has bad days. Everyone.

I think I need to stop feeling guilty about bad days. I still recognize how fortunate we are as a family and appreciate what we have, but everyone -- and every family -- is allowed a bad day now and again. As long as we don't dwell on them, we can get through them and move on.

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