Good Thing, Bad Thing

by Carol Ramsey
Originally Published: 

Damn it when the truth comes out. I was seriously busted the other day.

Me, my young girls and my parents were sitting down for a dinner at my parents’ house. My girls and I had just driven in from Austin, where we live. It had not been an easy drive.

We left Austin too close to lunch-time, then had to stop. When we got back on the road after lunch, they fell asleep, just as I hoped, only for me to realize that I was also falling asleep. My stop for coffee woke them up for good.

This was followed by disagreements over music which lead to hitting and pretend hitting and then almost-touching-each-other-with-the-intention-to-provoke, which is worse than real hitting because it is way more annoying.

Then the traffic from nowhere started at the same time as the whines of we-have-nothing-to-do followed by frequent needs to go to the bathroom in less than ideal parts of town.

I parked at the shady-looking Subway, got out of the car and tried to open the back door for my girls. It was locked. I snapped. I shouted, “I hate this FUCKING car!”

Before you think I’m the unreasonable one, let me tell you that an engineer somewhere decided to design a feature by which my car doors lock after we start driving to prevent the otherwise inevitable carjacking. But I don’t live in LA. I live in Austin. If I lived anywhere that actually had carjackings, I would move. On the other hand, I open the car door for my girls all day long every day. Thanks a lot Mr. Smarty Pants engineer, for pissing on me all day long!

As you can see, in this argument between me and the inanimate object, I was clearly the reasonable one.

Back at the dinner table, we had all just sat down to eat when my five-year-old Alana said, “Mommy, Mommy, this is were the special part comes up!”

My seven-year-old Sophia said, “Mommy, we are about to say a praaayyyyeeer!”

It’s funny that they don’t think I know about the praaayyyyeeer, seeing as I lived with my parents for the first nineteen years of my life. But my girls don’t know that part of me. My husband and I are Unitarian Universalist now and our family has different traditions.

Alana announced to Mimi, “We don’t say prayers at home!”

My Mom said, “That’s OK. We like to say a prayer before a meal at our house, though.”

I confirmed, “It’s nice to be thankful for your food. A lot of people and work went into getting this food on the table for us.”

We all said the prayer together. Then I told Alana, “Why don’t you tell Mimi about our tradition at the dinner table?”

Alana is our youngest and she sometimes feels like she gets to do less than everyone else. But, she leads Good Thing, Bad Thing at our dinner table.

Alana explained the tradition. Each person says one good thing and one bad thing about their day. She said the most important thing is to listen. Then she decided that Sophia should go first.

Sophia began, “Well, my bad thing is that on the drive, Mommy was VERY grumpy.”

I looked at her. She wasn’t saying it in a mean way, she was just telling the truth.

She continued, “Mommy was screaming some times and she used curse words…”

I looked at my parents. They were smiling.

And on and on Sophia went, “She has been stressed at work. She was yelling at the car. She got mad at us because we said we were bored.”

And on she went some more…

I don’t remember all the details. I do remember my parents starting to laugh. Then I laughed. My Dad said, “I’m learning a lot from this tradition!”

We continued Good Thing – Bad Thing around the table. Everyone listened to each other. Everyone got to share. I love our dinner tradition.

After dinner, I told my girls two things:

1. That they are old enough to be able to handle a three-hour car ride without being needy, especially with books, toys, music and movies.

2. I’m sorry I didn’t handle it better.

Well, I was sorry, but I still hate those fucking locks.

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