Virtue & Mischief: Persona Non Grata


“DAAAAAAADDDD!” Abby bellowed from our erstwhile living room, a space where we now rarely read books, nap on the couch, or sit and converse with visiting friends or family. These days the “living room” is dominated by activities devoted to the laptop computer or the PS4 gaming device located there. Much to my and Krista’s chagrin, the “living room” has become the “computer room.”

In any event, Abby’s shriek came from her perch at the roll-top desk where the family computer sits. “DAAAADDDD! Come here! Now! I need your help!!!!” she screamed again. I ambled over from the kitchen, certain that her decibel level was inversely related to the true severity of the supposed trauma she was encountering. She was shaking in frustration and emotional distress.

“Yes, Abby? What’s going on? Can I help you?”

She stared a hole in my cranium, apparently displeased with my casual tone of voice.

“Don’t give me that. This is really serious. This is, like, literally serious.”

I (wisely, I think) resisted the urge to lecture her over her profligate and inappropriate use of the words “like” and “serious,” and likewise punted on digging into what she meant by “don’t give me that.” Don’t give you what, Abigail? I wondered, but thought it better to let that particular sleeping-dog-of-an-issue lie for a while.

Instead, I inquired blandly, “What’s serious? What’s the trouble? How can I help you?”

“My TUMBLR account! I can’t get to it! I keep going in circles and it won’t let me in and they did something to change everything over to Yahoo accounts and I don’t have a Yahoo account and I forgot to create one in time or something so now all my stuff is just sort of there but I can’t add to it or anything so I’m sooooooooooo frustrated [she paused here for a breath]…I mean I have three years’ worth of work and stuff on there [a brief sob here] and I just can’t believe it’ll all be gone [she glances quickly at my face] and I mean I know, like, it means absolutely nothing to you and you don’t appreciate how important this is to me and I used your email account to set everything up originally ‘cause I didn’t have an email account then so you’re going to get some sort of confirmation thingy and I need you give me the new access code and I really hope that works because if it doesn’t I don’t know what to do and do you think they have a phone number I could call or maybe the Geek squad could help what do you think?”

Dear reader, I assure you the above utterance was as confusing and exhausting to decipher when it was delivered as it is to read now. I wanted to help, but was flummoxed by both her description of events and by her out-of-proportion level of upset.

“Abby, slow down. What do you need me to do? I’m confused.”

“OHMYGOSH! Weren’t you even listening? Do I literally have to hold your hand???”

“No, Abby, not literally. Stop yelling for a moment and slow down—”

“DAD!! Just get on your email account! They’re sending you—”

“Who’s sending me—”


“Abby! Abby! [She shakes her head vigorously in obvious disgust with her insensitive and luddite father; she continues to try to speak over me.] ABBY! Shut your mouth long enough for me to ask—”

“I’m trying to tell you something really basic, but you don’t stop talk long enough to let me explain! Unnnnhhhhhhhh!” she exclaimed with profound frustration.

“Abby—” I attempted to interject—again.

“DAD! BE QUIET! Unnnnnhhh! You are literally [I twitched] the WORST PARENT IN THE WORLD!”

Well, now. This was the second time in the past 24 hours I had been on the receiving end of that little rhetorical bouquet; the first was delivered by the youngest amigo, in response for what I no longer remember. I looked at Abby, smiled, and walked away to let her calm down for a minute or an hour or a day or a week. Or a year.

There was a time when such exclamations would have stung a little, but I’ve racked up enough experience by this point that they hardly register except as a topic to revisit when calm is restored—e.g., “When we’re angry and in the midst of certain tensions, how should we treat each other?” Indeed, I’m toying with instructing the family to have the following etched on my tombstone: Tim Swensen, b. 1961, d. xxxx; loving son, brother, husband, father…and LITERALLY THE WORST PARENT IN THE WORLD.

By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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