The Expectations We Have

Have you ever looked forward to an event, but got so caught up in the details and “have-to”s that you ended up forgetting to enjoy it?


Having a toddler really brings this home for me. It can be so hard to let him enjoy what he’s enjoying if I’ve made any effort in the event. If I take him to the zoo and he gets engrossed in the construction equipment at the entrance, I just want to get him moving so we can see the animals…because that’s what we’re there to do. Darn it. I can get so wrapped up in MY agenda that I forget about the real reason why we’re at the zoo. We’re there for HIM to have fun. But when that happens in a way I’m not expecting, I have to work hard to focus on the main point-his enjoyment.


We celebrated Easter this year. We’re very casual Easter observers. No church service, no Easter bunny pictures. This year we had a total of 5 people at the dinner. The one tradition we observed (other than consuming massive amounts of chocolate) was an egg hunt. It was supposed to be fun, but it ended up being the most stressful part of the day! Between the 4 adults, there was an almost constant chorus of “Find the eggs. Where are the eggs? Are there any more eggs? You’re getting warmer/colder…” Every 10 seconds someone said something about those stupid eggs. As if we were actually going to eat the eggs…and we were starving. Keep in mind there was only one child. And that one child wanted to play with the brand new motorcycle toy he found in his basket.


When I took a step back, I saw four adults pressuring one toddler to enjoy the day their way. That we were implying that having fun and appreciating a new toy was the wrong way of doing it. There was no good reason for this pressure. We didn’t need to be on time for any events. The weather was gorgeous so standing outside longer was actually pleasant. The eggs weren’t in danger of being forgotten, stolen, or going rotten. It was early enough that no one was starving for the food. But since finding eggs was the plan, we felt this need for it to happen as quickly and smoothly as possible. Moreover, I also saw us getting impatient with the fact that this child wasn’t playing his proper role in fulfilling our fantasy. We were thinking we were making the day about him, but we were really thinking about what we expected to get out of the event. In our minds, he was supposed to be searching determinedly for those eggs. Maybe squealing with delight each time he found one. And buying wholeheartedly into the idea of a magical bunny rabbit that would lay eggs filled with candy in our yard for him to find. Oh, and he’d better have fun while he’s doing it too. Can we all say "adult fail?" Nice try, though.


Maybe I can take a lesson from my son here. Maybe I can learn to zero in on and highlight my favorite parts of events. Maybe I can just let myself enjoy whatever I’m enjoying at that moment. Maybe I can recognize that more stress does not yield more fun. Maybe I can understand that how much I care is not accurately reflected in how much time and money I spent-or how much searching I did on Pinterest.


What ideas do you have for me? Have you and your family let go of any traditions or expectations that had a poor stress to fun ratio?