Yes, you read the title correctly. I have a toxic trait and it is having high expectations for everything. I don’t mean that in a “perfectionist” sort of way, more of an “unfettered optimism” way. I just really, truly, always think that everything is going to turn out great, and everyone is going to be just as excited as I am about…well, just about everything. Running an errand? It’s going to be an adventure. Meeting up with a couple of friends? Sounds like a party! Staying home with no plans? I’m going to be so relaxed!
So there I was, sailing along through life from one adventure to the next, and if I’m being honest pretty much nothing could douse the energy of my expectations. Even if something didn’t go exactly my way, I could usually “Pollyanna” my attitude until I still felt pretty good about the outcome. You know, always find something to be glad about. My husband is the realist between the two of us, but I pretty much ignored him when he would warn me that certain things might not always turn out how I thought they would.
Then, enter stage left…we had a kid.
If you’ve stayed with me so far, you might be able to guess what I thought having a baby was going to be like: ONE GIANT ADVENTURE! And it is, don’t get me wrong! But I also very quickly became more of a realist than I had ever dreamt I would be. Now with that baby being three-years-old, my husband and I often remind ourselves of our self-coined “Murphy’s Law of Toddlers.”
If you try to take your kid to do something fun, they will try to ruin it.
That sounds bad, but we usually say it while laughing to ourselves now that we’ve gotten used to it. But it happens often enough that we say it with confidence, and I bet a lot of you would back me up on this. Almost every time you plan a surprise outing or feel your toddler is ready for the next level of fun activities, they will inevitably: get sick, throw a tantrum, fall asleep in the middle of it, decide they don’t like it despite begging to do it for days prior, get hurt, want to leave early, not cooperate — the list goes on and on. And when you’re like me, you have already built up the fun of that day or activity in your head for days or weeks, imagining how much your kid is going to love it.
Here’s an example: the farmers’ market. I LOVE a good early morning spring/summer/fall farmers’ market outing in our small town. I love getting up early, taking my reusable bag to show how green and farm friendly I am, stopping by our local coffee shop for breakfast first, talking to the farmers, seeing people I know, eyeing all the brightly colored produce, sampling the baked goods, petting people’s dogs, etc. So you can just imagine how thrilled I was to start taking my then two-year-old to the market with me. And he did like it. But — and I hated admitting this to myself — it was not really fun or enjoyable.
All of a sudden it felt like a chore.
It was a pain to get his shoes on and get him strapped into his car seat. Before we could even leave he would do something to make me crazy like try to run down the driveway or make himself stiff as a board so I couldn’t buckle him in. Then when we got to the farmers’ market, he might cry if we walked toward the booths instead of a rock he saw on the ground. He was afraid of every dog we saw, he was too shy to enjoy the old people cooing at him and saying “Hello young man!” and he wanted in and out of his stroller every two minutes. Then, by the time we finished at the market and ran whatever other errand we had for that morning, it was getting close to naptime and he would throw a fit. We went almost every Saturday last summer, and in my delusional world of high expectations, I kept thinking it would get better and be more fun. Guess what? It didn’t. And guess how many farmers’ market Saturdays we went to this year? None. And guess who is all the more sane for it? That’s right, it’s me.
I’m not saying we stopped doing all activities with our kid, but I am saying that I finally realized I can’t and won’t force my small child to enjoy every activity just because I think it sounds fun. We still do new things and try different experiences, but we have learned to make them more manageable for everybody. And probably most importantly, I have learned to expect…less. To let it go if you will. I think when I do that, we all have more fun, and I’m not as worried about everybody having a good time every second of the day.