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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lost in the Translation

It was the worst day of her life. She told me so. I can't remember the specifics, but they were things that 8 year-olds (now nine) find traumatizing and parents listen patiently to and nod and offer encouragement and hugs, things like "lost the back of my earring", "shoes hurt my feet today at gym class", and "forgot to feed my fish and now i have to go all the way back upstairs."

So she told me it was the worst day of her life, and I said, "then we'd better mark it down on the calendar, Em, cause this is a day to remember. Everything from here on out is good news!"

She remained glum.

"Em, the bad days make the best stories."

"What do you mean, daddy?"

"I mean, you know how in Harry Potter, when Voldemort scars Harry's forehead and tries to kill him?"


"THAT is what makes the story great. If everything was always good in Harry's life there'd be no story. There'd be no hurdles to overcome. There'd be no Dursleys to show up, no Dracos to beat at Quidditch, no Snape to trick, no Voldemort to defeat. The story is only interesting because of the bad things the hero has to overcome. Do you see what I mean?"

"Yeah, i guess so."

"So THIS is your worst day ever. . . but you're the hero in your own story, Em. Days like this are what make your story interesting. When you tell people about your day, nobody cares if you always say, 'good thanks'. It's interesting when you say, 'dog bit my leg, had to use my homework to keep my head dry during a rainstorm, forgot to close my bedroom window and flooded my room.'

She smiled. I marked the date on the calendar. "February 8".


We got back from Chicago on Monday. It was really a nice vacation with the family. This isn't really a blog about that trip, although i think i probably need to cover that in more detail than the broadbrush I'm writing now. We saw touristy things. We stood in line for unique experiences, we spent time with family, we rode a train. It was really enjoyable. Emma SQUEALED in delight as we walked between the enormous passenger trains idling on the tracks as we boarded. I'm amazed she was able to sleep that night on the train, so happy was she, shaking with suppressed excitement, staring with rapt attention out the window as the moonlit scenery streamed by.

Looking back over a trip with special hotdogs and cupcakes, American Girl Doll Store, Sky Deck, fancy hotel rooms and train rides over new territories, my wife asked Emma what she was going to tell her classmates about her trip to Chicago.

"I'm going to tell them that we had to stand outside in the cold for 45 minutes to get a hotdog, and that the wind was really bad and i lost my gloves, and potty on the train was really small and scared me when it flushed."

"What? What about all the fun you had? You said that was the best hot dog you ever had in your life!"

"I know, but daddy says the best stories are the ones that talk about all the bad stuff that happened."

When you lecture, it's important that you know your audience. Because you might think you're saying, "the glass is half full" but she's hearing how to dump her glass out more interestingly.