Whether it’s a vacation you’ve been counting down for, a day off with your kiddo, a long-distance run, or even that piece of coffee cake you’ve been salivating over, we all have high expectations and hopes about many events in our lives. And so many of them lead to great disappointments. But the kicker is that if we hadn’t expected anything at all, we wouldn’t be disappointed, would we? It was Ben Franklin who said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” And most parents live and breathe “Expect the worst but hope for the best.”
And yet….I continue to have high hopes for nearly everything. I took a day off recently to spend with my son. We had a list of errands that we had to do, but had a bunch of fun things thrown in the day, too, like play at the Maine Discovery Museum and go out to lunch. I had been looking forward to this day for several weeks. Not only because I got a day off from work and had no plans to do any housework, but I just wanted a day with my kid with no time constraints. Yes, we still had to buy pants and go grocery shopping, but we could take our time at all the fun places.
I woke up that morning with a cold and was starting to feel pretty lousy, but I refused to let it get to me. Fortunately, the first place we went to was the museum. We had a great time. I was a little disconcerted that my son was pretending to rob the little café the kids play in (he actually took the play money from the register and ran away, cackling—then returned it a few minutes later), but otherwise the 2-hour long adventure was pretty great. He then asked to go to McDonald’s. I had no desire to do that, but this was his day, too, so I agreed. I hate McDonald’s for so many reasons, but selfishly, one of them is that I can only eat a salad or oatmeal from the place. But Bri behaved well and had a good time playing with an older boy that was there, so I really couldn’t complain. Yet while leaving, he asked for another cheeseburger. After ordering and paying, we waited….and waited….and waited. I was trying so hard not to fume, but I didn’t succeed. I wasn’t that nice to the cashier and felt shitty about it. I work with the public so I should fucking know better! I still feel the need to apologize to the woman, and hope to track her down the next time we’re there.
Then we made the trip to the dreaded Wal-Mart to buy Briar a pair of pants. That is all we wanted from that blasted place. One pair of pants. And so we drove to the store and ended up having to walk through 6-inch piles of slush and slop throughout the parking lot. Neither one of us wore our boots and our feet were soaked way before we made it to the door. Briar whined and yelled and complained for what seemed to be an hour-long walk (it was more like 30 seconds) through the parking lot. At first I made all those noises you’re supposed to as a parent–“I know, honey. I understand. My feet are getting wet, too. We just need to make it to the door and it will be fine.” Blah, blah, blah. But my son just couldn’t stop ranting. And then I lost it. I screamed at him, “JUST SHUT UP!”
Now….I hate that phrase. “Shut up.” It’s something I try not to say unless I’m laughing and playfully smacking you on the arm. But to yell it? In anger and frustration? At my son? In the middle of a public place?
I could feel the shame and embarrassment wash over me. I couldn’t even look up and just kept walking, pulling Briar along, and staring at the ground. And very unlike me, I did not apologize right away. Once we found him some pants and he tried them on, I apologized to him then. I was calm and knew it would be sincere. “That’s ok, Mom,” he said, and reached for me and gave me a hug.
Sometimes I think I’m the luckiest mom in the world.
The rest of that afternoon went by in a blur. I do remember there was a lot more smiling and laughing, and no more yelling. We even ran a race with lots of breathless giggling. Those are the parts I hope he remembers. I doubt it, but I can hope.
As for everything else I have high hopes for, I do try to have realistic expectations, but the mind is such an odd thing, isn’t it? We’re taking a vacation in a few weeks to see family and absorb some much needed warmth and sunshine. I *hope* we have a fantastic time with perfect weather (like last time) and no complaints. But is it realistic to think that when we’re staying with family (8 of us in one house) and have less than a week to pack in a year’s worth of visiting and good times? Absolutely not. Instead, I hope to have a couple of warm, sunny days. I hope to relax, be calm, go for a couple of runs, take a few good photos, and hear my son laugh….a lot.
I don’t think that’s unreasonable, do you? And as for that piece of coffee cake I was salivating over? As it baked, it made my entire house smell divine. Yet, it didn’t taste as good as I remember when I baked it the last time. It was actually a little disappointing. So I ate one more piece to confirm my disappointment. And that piece tasted better. Instead of feeling let down, sometimes you can just keep trying until you get your expected result.
So maybe if the vacation doesn’t go well, I can go on another one?