“This is the Worst Day Ever!”

It was actually sunny on Friday, a rare occurrence in these parts. Hell, it was snowing last week! Karen, Joey and Nate were headed to Oneonta to shop and Karen asked if I’d go. Sure, I wasn’t doing anything. As I put on my jacket, Nate grew alarmed.

“What are you doing Dad? You’re not going with us, are you?”

“Yes, I am.”

“You can’t go,” he yell-whined. There are times, many in fact, when Nate doesn’t want me to join him on a short trip. I think he figures I’ll put a damper on his fun, maybe give him a hard time about his behavior or his bathroom pictures. There is a history there.

Still, we all got in the Kia and drove the 20 minutes to Walmart. There, Nate got a Narnia movie he didn’t have, and I found Horton Hears a Who for him in the $5 bin. We had a lot of time to kill until Bearded Dragon, the comic store, opened at 3 PM. The shop carries two subscriptions for Nate. They save both Simpsons Comics and Bart Comics as they come in, and Nate is very much aware of what issues should be waiting for him.

We sat in the parking lot for a bit, and fifteen minutes early, the guys from the store arrived and let Karen and the boys in. They were done quickly and the trouble began.

Turns out that the store had only one comic, Simpsons Comics #177. They didn’t know why Bart Comics #59 was unavailable and, with that pronouncement, Nate began to unravel. The absence of half his order, coupled with his forgetting his newly purchased Simpsons Comic Meltdown at his grandparents’ house, was simply too much for Nate. Who needs a pretend meltdown when you can have a real one instead?

All the old tics, catchphrases and outbursts reemerged as we headed home. “Nate wants Bart Comics #59,” “If I don’t get my comic I’ll turn into a robot” (followed by some mechanical talking),” whimpering like a dog, screaming. The script, played out so many times before, was ready for a revival.

Karen and I both tried to talk him down, but after a while, I’d had it. I took the comic he did have and told him to be quiet for the rest of the ride home if he wanted it back. Does that kind of punishment work with him? Not really. He continued to lose control, but I always feel that bad behavior can’t be allowed without some kind of parental response. Nate’s response was some pinching, a little hitting, and a Spock like grab of my neck. In turn, I got stony silent (after a few “Shut the fuck ups”).

Still, in the midst of the misery, there was some humor. I had the comic on my left knee and, for a moment, Nate stopped yelling. Then, I saw his left hand and arm stealthily reaching around the passenger seat in a vain effort to find his book, thinking I wouldn’t notice.

All hell broke loose when Simpsons Comic #177 began to slide off my leg. Joey said from his vantage point it looked as if I were destroying it. That must’ve been what Nate thought because he freaked out – yelling, pulling on my seat like Paul Dano in Little Miss Sunshine, hitting me and crying out “No!” He had reason to think I would wreck it. There is a history there.

I didn’t know what had set him off, unaware of how things looked from the middle row. But I flipped at the assault and immediately turned on Nate, grabbing him by the neck and telling him, in my most angry voice, to cut it out. It was awful, another moment that makes me wonder who I am, who he is, how much progress we’ve really made and where will all our exertions lead us?

When we pulled into the driveway, Nate ran in the house screaming, running past Robbie and his girlfriend. “I couldn’t get Bart Comics #57 and Simpsons Comic Meltdown  is gone. This is the worst day ever!” Only Nate could get 99% of what he wants and see the day as a complete failure.

Karen and I looked at each other. We forgot how exhausting these episodes were and wondered how we’d ever gotten through life when those used to be a daily happening. We have come a long way.

Once Nate settled down, he commented on the meltdown. “That was worse than when you took all my Disney videos away.”

“I don’t remember that Nate.”

“This outburst was like the first scene I made in school in 1996.” Oh those poor teachers!

All is well. Nate is reunited with Simpsons Comic Meltdown courtesy Karen driving to Schenectady to retrieve it. No Bart Comic yet, but he seems serene. All his attention is now focused on a new Simpsons episode this Sunday night.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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