By Sarah Anderson
My husband often tells me “the happiest and healthiest people are those whose expectations meet reality.” I frequently need reminding of this. I live in expectation—anticipation—playing things out in my head of how I would like them to unfold. The problem is, as you might imagine, the more expectations I have, the more likely I am to be disappointed when they aren’t met. Thinking through how I would like things to be is far from a guarantee of how they will actually happen.
There may be no other realm in life where expectation and reality land in such vastly different places than raising children. Anyone who thought they knew how to parent before having kids will quickly retract every adamantly vocalized expectation once they actually become a parent.
Still, imagining the future is a hard habit to break. Last Easter, I had expectations which seemed harmless enough. My husband had come across an egg dying method involving silk ties and twine.
Though craftiness deficient, even this seemed simple enough. I imagined our experiment unfolding like the pictures online promised. We included my two-year-old in the process, hyping it up, promising beautiful eggs when we were finished and he waited patiently for the great unveiling.
But when we unwrapped the first egg we were—disappointed. It was not some psychedelic paisley print. It looked exactly like it did when we first put it in the vinegar. Considering my son came from my gene pool and was in the throes of the terrible twos, I did not expect this rather anti-climactic reveal to go well.
But when we took a deep breath and turned to Asher to navigate his unmet expectations he simply stared wide-eyed at the egg. “Look!” he whispered in unabashed astonishment, “It’s a white one!”
The clash between expectations and reality start to get to me, until I take a cue from a toddler who offers more wisdom than I give him credit for. Unwrapping a perfectly white egg, I observe my little boy and his effortless expression of wonder. It was an Easter weekend miracle—at least to an innocent toddler. To me, these white eggs were a failure.
To him, they were perfection.
Parenting provides an abundance of moments where things look so much better, smoother, and easier in our heads than how they actually transpire.
It starts with the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. But the assault of “this isn’t really how I imagined it going” doesn’t end there. Nearly every moment that follows potentially involves a lot more frustration and a lot less ease than we might prefer.
Which leads me to believe—by way of a two-year old’s astuteness—that maybe disappointment isn’t inevitable when expectations fall flat. Maybe discontentment doesn’t have to be the end when the means are fumbled.
Maybe, if we can take our eyes off the “should haves” and “if onlys”, we just might be left with a sense of wonder—even if, and especially when, things are nothing like we thought they would be. Or, in these wise words I recently read, maybe what we consider the detour is actually the road.
My kids are teaching me—whether I like it or not—that when I let go of my tightly held plans, I am more free to see the world as they do.
An extended invitation to be present, thankful and captivated by the gift of what we do have, instead of lamenting what isn’t.
So this Easter, while trying to
get out the door to church,
wipe dirty mouths,
break up arguments and
appear as cool, calm and collected as you wish you felt,
take a moment to enjoy the white eggs in your life.
Your expectations may not be met, but you may just find yourself happier and healthier than if they had been.
Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two beautiful bouncy boys, Asher and Pace.