Upon embarking on any venture in life, most of us have some kind of expectation attached to the outcome of that venture.
I decided to make cookies yesterday…I expected they would be delicious. (They were.)
I went to a kickboxing class last night…I expected it would kick my butt. (It did. I can barely move today, thanksforasking.)
I became a parent…I expected it to be a whole lot of things…
That it sometimes wasn’t. (Which was sometimes really, really good, like when I had the expectation that I would never get a full night’s sleep again but was proved wrong when Raven hit about 3 months old.)
As I’ve gotten much more used to playing the role of Mom, I discovered that the expectations often just flare up out of nowhere, seemingly. And that even the expectations based on sound reasoning and past precedent sometimes don’t get fulfilled. (Like the fact that Raven LOVED eating sweet potatoes out of the baby food jar but hates the real thing. What’s up with THAT?)
Sometimes, I recognize almost immediately that the expectations in my head are silly. For example, I watched a video of my Facebook friend’s kid (who’s about the same age as Raven) counting to ten, and I expected that Raven would quickly pick up on the same skill, so we spent an afternoon or two working on it. (Apparently, she only feels the need to count to 3–a skill she had learned long before I started trying to teach her more–which makes sense, really, when you think that one…two…three leads to us throwing her up into the air with eager squeals or when it’s our way of getting her excited and ramping up her sense of anticipation about bouncing on the bed, or that we usually only read a maximum of three books before each nap/bedtime, or that she usually doesn’t exceed two pieces of toast or three clementines or whatever it is).
So she can’t count to 10.
Obviously, expectations like that aren’t such a big deal. (And I felt no sense of let-down whatsoever that she hasn’t reached that particular milestone yet.)
As a parent, you realize pretty early on that it’s not a good idea to base your expectations on what someone else’s kid is doing—
But I think something important for me to realize early on too was that it’s important not to heap too many expectations either on what I’m going to call “the magic memories.”
Magic memories, for me, are the memories that (hopefully) most adults have of their childhood—memories of building snowmen outside on a snow day from school, memories of walking around seeing Christmas lights and sipping on hot chocolate, memories of building fires in the fireplace and gathering around to read a story together as a family. Some of these so-called magic memories are based on traditions that can be anticipated year after year, but some of them arise from the moment at hand, like when my siblings and I used to play fox-and-geese out in our snowy backyard, throwing ice water down on the paths we’d made so they’d be extra slick (and therefore much more slippery and fun to run on).
I think sometimes as parents, we remember such times from our own childhood and remember how much we loved them, so it’s tempting to build up this grand sense of anticipation anytime we lead our children to participate in just such a magical activity.
Well, as we now embark on the stage of Raven’s life where she’s more fully starting to “get” everything that we’re doing with her, I noticed that my expectations were also increasing—
She was going to be so excited to try hot chocolate for the first time!
She was going to ooh and aah over all the Christmas lights!
And, of course, she was going to simply be breathless with excitement over her first “real” afternoon in the snow, complete with snowsuit and boots and everything.
Well, in typical Raven fashion, she approached the whole business of this “playing in the snow” deal very cautiously.
She carefully picked her way along the paths that Daddy had made before her, taking particular care not to brush any of the snow on the side and whining whenever any snow got onto the top of her boots.
She had zero interest in actually touching the snow herself.
Upon being placed on a little snow “seat” (just to show her that she could do that now that she was in heavy-duty snow gear), she promptly burst into tears and blubbered, “Up! Please! PLEASE!” until we took pity on her and picked her up.
Although she clearly loved being outside again (since we’ve been cooped up in the apartment for SO many days this winter), she didn’t really want much to do with it all—
She just wanted to be able to walk and walk and walk and walk with no limitations of walls or doors or cupboards or furniture, and she wanted to be able to notice the airplanes as they roared across the sky and say bye-bye to the dogs as our neighbor trotted them past on their leashes.
I was okay with all this, of course. But I’ll admit, I still felt like I’d let her down, somehow, by not being able to SHOW her how amazing the snow could be. I felt like this experience didn’t exactly live up with the experience I’d envisioned in my head, and I went inside feeling just the teensiest bit sad over the whole ordeal.
I realize this is all going to sound rather silly to some.
I mean, look at these pictures! The fact that she clearly doesn’t love the snow is kind of hilarious! (Which it was, and is.)
But I’ve been thinking over the past month of holiday merry-making and so on that perhaps it is best sometimes to go in with no expectations—to just go in, rather, with the sense of embracing whatever is the outcome as the way it will be, and as a way to make perfectly imperfect memories.
I know, looking back, I will laugh and laugh as I remember how much Raven treated the snow like it was a thing to be ignored at best and a thing to be feared at worst. (In fact, I DO laugh as I see these pictures.)
But I want to file away a note to myself, a note to remember when we are about to embark on the always-oncoming firsts and new experiences and possible magical moments—
Just go into them with no expectations other than to live in the moment and appreciate the time together. What will happen will happen, and true “magic” can rarely be forced, anyway.
Just enjoy it all, the tears as well as the excitement, the mood swings as well as the triumphs.
Because someday, you will look back on this first “real” time playing out in the snow, and you will laugh in delight that it was not at all to your expectations.
Because parenthood has not always been at all to your expectations.
And many times, that has been a very, very good thing.