The past few months at work have been grueling. Overtime for no extra pay. Unreasonable expectations and workload. I worked a full day on Sunday. So today, when things quieted down for a few hours, I took Henry to a movie. He had the day off for a teacher inservice, and the last thing I wanted to do was let him sit in front of screens all day numbing his mind with YouTube and Minecraft and XBox One video games. So I thought I'd spend $40 on a matinee and concessions, and numb both our minds in front of a giant screen.
We went to see "Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day." The story, based on a 1972 award-winning book by Judith Viorst, chronicles a day in the life of 11-year-old Alexander who wished on a birthday candle that everyone else could just -- for once -- experience the rotten day he was having.
This tale has promise, you think, right? The possibility for slapstick and silliness and pre-teen mayhem. Hardy-har. Tee-hee. What a way to spend a couple hours, relaxing with a children's comedy and avoiding work.
I didn't tell Henry, but this might have been the worse movie ever in the history of movies. I'm sure, cinematically, it was stellar. Had a fine cast, led by Dad Steve Carell and Mom Jennifer Garner. It could just have been that my brain was preoccupied and I was a little on edge to begin with. But after this movie, I needed a Xanax, a shot of whiskey, and several hours with my therapist.
This movie featured: a child being humiliated in front of his classmates (including the girl he's crushing on), a middle-school-aged sibling who practices night and day to perfect her role as Peter Pan only to wake up SICK on the day of the performance, a high-school aged sibling who gets a moon-crater-sized zit on his face on the day of prom before failing his driving test and is forced to go in the only tuxedo the rental place has left -- powder blue with ruffles. Mom totally blows her big presentation at her publishing house. Dad is a laid-off rocket scientist (yes, apparently the job market is even bad for rocket scientists) who has to take his crying, snotty, diapered toddler son to a job interview at a hipster gaming development company -- where the baby proceeds to cover his face in green permanent marker (and probably sniffs and ingests enough toxins to turn all Jeff Spicoli in his tween years).
There was gum in hair. Somebody puked. The family minivan was destroyed. Someone dumped his date on prom night (even though she deserved it...ouch). Must I go on?
Does this sound fun? It wasn't. It was anxiety-laden, trauma-filled, and hit much too close to reality for those of us parents who are trying to juggle work and activities and somehow, in the midst of all the chaos, are attempting to raise babies into successful, well-adjusted grownups.
I live a little scene or two of that movie nearly every day. Actually, I've been living it since I was a kid being poked fun of, an awkward teen who sought perfection at the point of stressing out and getting sick, an adult who hardly illustrates grace under pressure, and now a middle-aged parent working extra hours, shuttling the kid to sports and orchestra practices, tag-team parenting with a spouse who often works nights or weekends.
Ok, Alexander. You had a bad day. We all have bad days. My day was made worse by having to watch your bad day, Al. Then that little twerp and her sniveling brother behind us kicked our seats through the first half of the movie, despite my subtle glares and "stop that" whispers, and their mommy got all up in my face when I finally told them to "knock it off." She said I could used less harsh words.
Harsh words, lady? Really? What I really wanted to say would've made her
Next time we have a couple hours, I think I'll take Henry bowling. Or out for frozen yogurt. Or to the library. Stinky rented shoes, chocolate goo with gummy bear toppings, every Captain Underpants book ever printed . . .
What could go wrong?