418. Having Bad Days

Many of us adults allow ourselves to have days when we’re not at our best. Some of us find people or circumstances to blame, and to varying degrees, and in various ways, sometimes those people and circumstances actually do deserve some of the blame. As hard as we try to be in control of what happens to us, we’re not always completely in control. And it sometimes helps us cope if we can point a finger elsewhere, whether or not the reasons for bad days really are external and/or controllable. Whether or not there even are reasons.
Many (but not all) of us also allow children to have bad days. We relax our standards for behavior and productivity, knowing that children, like us, can have ups and downs, and often do better during the ups. So there are days when some children are allowed to hand in work that doesn’t represent the best they can do. And there are days parents let children get away with what’s usually forbidden.
If we adults were perfect, every time we allowed a bad day, it would be the result of careful thought. But sometimes our bad days and theirs coincide, and we don’t feel up to holding up our standards anyway. In fact, sometimes our bad days create bad days for children who were otherwise going to do fine; either they quickly perceive the lowering of standards and immediately take advantage of it, or our bad moods trickle down in other ways that affect them.
I know that there are parents, teachers, and children who know when their bad days are happening. If that’s not too often, and there’s a back-up plan already in place, a bad day can be a little better. The parent, teacher, or child can take the day off. An adult can have a substitute teacher, parenting partner,
or babysitter take over while the storm is being weathered. A child may also be allowed to take a day off without being officially “sick.”
It’s healthy for us to know when it’s happening, and to forgive ourselves and others. On our own good days, it’s easier to forgive people whose days aren’t turning out to be so good. And it’s easier to forgive people whose bad days aren’t too frequent. It’s also nice to know what works. Some of my bad days are days when I should stay away from children, for their sake and mine. And some of them are days when I should make sure children are around.
If you haven’t already, I recommend that you read Judith Viorst’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Alexander is a child who is having one of those days, and keeps talking about running away to Australia. The last sentence in the book is one I’ve often quoted – sometimes for children, and sometimes for adults: “Some days are like that – even in Australia.”

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