My husband had a really bad day. In car speak, it wasn’t a fatal collision kind of day, but it wasn’t a little fender bender, either. It was the sort of bad day where, had it just been the two of us, I would simply give him his space until he was ready to talk, and leave it at that. But now we have a kid — a kid who was not only so upbeat, but who didn’t exactly understand what’s so bad, other than Mama and Daddy were sure acting weird.
And that’s what was difficult to balance. You see, I’ve always felt like my husband and I are pretty lucky in life. We have bad, “fender bender” days, but hardly the kind when you would say, “When it rains, it pours.” In fact, since having our toddler nearly three years ago, this was our first major misfortune (and even that isn’t as bad as I know it can be). So we have yet to deal with bad days asides from the typical tired-from-work days or the my-kid-is-fussy days.
Speaking of fussy kid days, at least one of the positive aspects of those days when my kid acts up is that our toddler also feels terrible, however strange that might sound. We’re upset, but so is he, so there’s no need to explain to him what’s wrong or try to put on a cheerful face.
But what do you do when you’re having a bad day that has nothing to do with your kids? When he wants to play, jump around and share his cheer? When he isn’t old enough to know that he should give adults their alone time to grieve or sort through their emotions.
Since the day affected my husband the most, I took it upon myself to try to contain and redirect my toddler as best I could. Inevitably, our little guy sensed that something was wrong, and quickly went from happy to upset. From what I could gather, he seemed to feel like he had done something wrong or that we were upset with him, so my first course of action was to reassure him that he had no part in what happened and that he wasn’t at fault.
I also needed to keep him away from his dad for a few hours. The last thing my husband needed is to pretend that everything is fine and dandy, or worse, handle with a frustrated toddler when you’re just as exasperated. My husband needed time to pull himself together, and I didn’t feel it was fair for him to pretend to feel fine. And so my toddler was by my side most of the day until my husband was ready.
During that time, I explained what had happened, how Daddy and Mama feel, and that we’ll eventually feel happy again. I acknowledged his own emotions, from confusion to fear to frustration. I also needed to let him know that other people have certain boundaries, and that just because he’s in the mood to play, other people may not, especially when they’re having a really bad day.
In this situation, at least one of us (me) was still somewhat able to manage our toddler. I can’t imagine going through major grief, as in someone’s death or another tragedy where both my husband and I would much rather keep to ourselves and not have to interact with anyone.
The next day, we picked up the pieces and, as with any challenge we’ve faced, we moved on. I hope that my toddler learned more about emotions that day, whether it was respecting others’ emotions, understanding his own, and realizing that he wasn’t to blame.
How would you have handled a bad day that had nothing to do with your kids, yet you still had to take care of them?