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The Bad Day Lesson
Teachings of a Three Year Old.

by Hal Evan Caplan
July 3, 2007

My three year old son teaches me life's little lessons. Some of the lessons are hard to accept and sometimes the lessons appear at the most unexpected times. Not only do I learn from my three year old teacher, but from time to time the lessons are really just reminders of things that I already know.

As you know, sometimes we all have bad days and things don't appear to go our just happens. When days like this occur, I'm sure we would love to just crawl back into bed, pull up the covers and hide, or even start the day over. Unfortunately, we do not always have those luxuries, so we deal with the day and press onward.

Recently, I had such a day. It didn't start out that way; however, after arriving at work and shortly thereafter feeling like a chicken with my head cut off, it quickly turned into one of THOSE days. As the day went on, not only did things begin to pile up, but I also began to make mistakes that I normally would not have made. This continued throughout the day. By the time the work day was over, I was mentally "gone".

Then I had to deal with the "fun part"...fighting the rush hour traffic during my commute home. This just seemed to fuel my frustration. I mean, why is it that we notice the lack of driving skills by others when we are frustrated? I vocalized this to myself each time I was cut off. One verbal rant led to another and all of a sudden I was talking to myself...actually yelling at myself for all of the stupid mistakes I had made throughout the day.

As for work, I realized that I would have to clean up the mess upon my return to in the morning and that didn't make things any better. You see, I'm not talking about a mess that is cleaned up by a broom or mop...more to the point, a Client Relations mess?I don't want to bore you with the details, nor do I want to revisit that "fine" day.

Usually I'm good about leaving work-related stuff at work; unfortunately, on this day, I allowed it to follow me home. Even after I arrived, I continued my replay out loud about the mistakes I had made and the work day's negative commentary. My wife noticed the obvious and asked about my day, and I said that I didn't want to talk about it. She also observed that I was pretty irritable and so she made a point of giving me the space that I needed. My teacher on the other hand, did not. To him, this was the perfect opportunity for the lesson to begin...

"Dad, what's wrong?" He asked
"Nothing." I mumbled.
"Sure there is." He observed.
"Why do you say that?" I questioned.
"You are not fun or funny today." He stated
"Fun...funny, what do mean by that?" I asked
He paused for a little while and then replied, "Never mind, I'll just go play with Mommy instead."
He stood up and just walked away, leaving me there to sulk all by myself. Wow, that was an eye opener! I was just "blown-off" by my three year old teacher.

After a little bit, my wife noticed that I was still mentally "gone". She asked me to help out with dinner and small chores, but I was not able to perform the simplest tasks. This too, got the best of me. As I continued to be very hard on myself, muttering about this and that, I actually began to comment on my own revelations. Like this would help?

Meanwhile, my three year old teacher was observing my actions and then my wife whispered something in his ear. Based on my earlier actions and the "digs" I was making at myself, I'm guessing these whispers were Mom letting him know why Dad was acting the way that he was...

I think that my teacher felt sorry for me at this point because he had not really seen me act or feel so down like this before.

"Dad." He whispered. "I'm sorry you had such a yucky day."
"That's ok." I replied.
"Why was your work day bad?" He wanted to know.
"It's work stuff...I was just a dork today." I replied.
"Oh." He responded.

Of course that prompted me to start thinking about the entire "bad" day again. I sat there with what I believe to be a sad, blank look on my face as I just stared off into space.

Then in the midst of me being so consumed by my shortcomings of the day, the lesson concluded. It was very much to the point.

As I was reminded that it was his bedtime, he looked at me and said,
"Dad, I think I want Mom to put me to bed tonight."
Another low-blow I thought to myself.

Then he continued...
"Dad, you know, it's ok to make mistakes sometimes."

I sat there stunned...and finally asked him, "Why do you say that...and where did you hear that from?"
"From you, Dad." He replied. Then he raced up the stairs to bed, calling out to my wife to follow...

Ouch...that one hurt, I thought to myself...but looking back on the evening at home and the way I was acting, I deserved it.

When he reached the top of the stairs, he turned back, looked at me and said that he loved me anyway, gave me a thumbs up and disappeared in the darkness.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I learned that day is: sometimes you need to be reminded that it's ok to make mistakes, and that even though a poor attitude may linger from a bad day, we are still loved.

About the Author:
Originally from Colorado; now residing in Alabama. Hal is married and has a son. Hal loves the outdoors and is always willing to learn...and of course, always learns from his son.

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