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No Bad Days

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“How was your day?”

It’s such a common question. It’s perhaps the most timeless of questions, and one we ask of children and partners and anyone we care about. It’s a love question, what happened in your day when we were apart? It’s a small talk question, and we’re listening to the response with half an ear while washing dishes until we respond with, wait what?! Because the response is also limited, much like our listening so frequently is. It’s a highlights reel.

The trouble with reflection, is that it’s not necessarily accurate. It’s not a movie, replaying in our minds. Or maybe it is, with the most limited perspective, and maybe some missing scenes.

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We don’t see or remember things factually. We don’t let things happen to and around us and move forward. We interpret and we respond. We’re so incredibly biased. Things are easy when they’re black and white, good and bad, and it’s natural to qualify our days in this way. A snapshot evaluation.

But it’s not accurate, is it? We think today is the worst day ever, we’re cranky and irritable, and then the sun comes out and we can physically feel our mood lift. We’re excited about something, and nothing can dim our mood. Tears are close to the surface and everything seems harder than it should be, and we end up with a stomach bug later in the day. We wake up before our alarm and a friend brings us a special coffee and even the most challenging moment is joyful.

The facts are not the facts, they are impacted by such a variety of factors, within and outside of our control, changing and mutable, and evaluated on a whim.

“The trouble with reflection, is that it’s not necessarily accurate.”

When we got into a fender-bender on the way to work, do we recall the way we just knew it was going to be a horrible day from the moment we got out of the bed, or do we recall the helpers who ensured we were safe, the friend who collected us, and the fact that no one was injured?

Perspective. It’s why we can’t send home a daily report of a child’s learning, since I can say what I showed a child, but that’s not inclusive or even representative of what they learned. I cannot name the million things a child is internalizing and learning and connecting, I cannot say all the times she was a kind friend, or he exerted strong impulse control, or she pronounced the sound she’s been struggling with, or he didn’t have a toileting accident. Unfortunately, we don’t get points for the donuts we don’t eat, or the unkind things we don’t say when we’re feeling tired and hungry, or the dishes we remember to rinse and put in the dishwasher.

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I have to give a child the benefit of the doubt. I have to give the child grace. I cannot say, little Sammy ran across the room, because I don’t share all the times Sammy walked carefully around the rug. I do not share, Frances realized her friend only bumped her table accidentally and thus didn’t overreact. I don’t compliment a child on navigating this challenging and changing world.

The baseline is the expected, pro-social behavior. We’re not usually given the gift of a learning curve. My way or the highway, no highway option.

But that’s why they’re here, right? To learn how to do this. To figure out when a partner is having fun, and when they’ve reached the limit of mutual enjoyment. To decode social cues and respond appropriately. To develop self-control and self-worth, and to marry the two in acting both in their own best interests and with the needs of the community in mind. To use their words rather than their bodies to get what they want, and to grow into comfort with the idea that we don’t always get what we want, even when we play by the rules.

So there are no bad days. There aren’t days when you did everything right except that one moment when you acted, well, like a child? A child who is still developing impulse control and awareness of emotions? There are good days, and days where we are learning. Mistakes are the best learning, when we learn what doesn’t work, where we still have room to grow. The only bad day, is one without you. No bad days.

Written by:

Charlotte Wood

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