Suzanne Lindgren

Strummer and I were in the car after work a few weeks ago. I asked him, as I usually do, how his day had gone at daycare.

“It was a bad day,” he said. 

This was not something he’d ever said before, even on the rare occasion that he’d been bitten or come home scratched and bruised from a fall. It seemed significant.

“Oh bear cub, I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “What happened?”

“It was a bad day.” 

Asking a two year old their reasons for saying or doing something is often futile. In spite of that, I gave it another go.

“Well, why was it bad?”

“Because,” he said, my hopes rising in anticipation of an explanation, “it was a bad day.”

Giving up, I reiterated my sympathy and moved the conversation to other topics. After discussing whether the train was parked at the depot (it was) and whether we’d already crossed the river on our imaginary bear hunt (I still maintain that we hadn’t), we were pulling into the driveway when my phone rang. 

It was a good friend who I don’t see often, so I put her on speakerphone and we chatted as I unbuckled Strummer from his car seat.

She reported that after taking a different position at work, she was facing some challenging new social dynamics. After a couple minutes of conversation the point became clear. She’d had a rough day.

“Ah,” I said, “Strummer had a hard day today too. Didn’t you, bud?”

“Yeah,” he said. “But it’s OK to have a bad day.”

I paused. Matthew and I will often tell Strummer it’s OK to feel sad or angry, disappointed or frustrated. As anyone who’s raised a toddler knows, you’re not going to avoid those emotions. Might as well embrace them as a learning experience. 

Still, I hadn’t thought to apply the principle to the entirety of his bad day. In fact, it was kind of a revelation to me.

“Yeah,” I said, thinking back on a few days I personally hope never to relive. “It is OK to have a bad day.”

Whatever the recipe — poor luck, making a mistake or misjudgment, feeling you’ve been treated unfairly, or some combination of these — we all have bad days. We live through them. We learn from them. Maybe they give us a deeper appreciation for the good and the average days. Even if not, the fact remains that they’re part of the deeply complex and sometimes uncomfortable human experience.

And ultimately, it is OK.

I welcome your response to this editorial column:

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