I was late, standing in line during my lunch hour to return a shirt The Kid spent about a half-second glancing at before making the most horribly disgusted look I’d ever see on his face, when the 6-year-old in front of me starting acting up.
“Please, Mommy. Please!” she cried as she waved a pink-boxed doll in her mother’s direction.
“I WANT IT!” she screamed, and then took the box and smashed it into her mom’s leg.
Mom looked pretty horrified.
Of course, I can remember when Trent pulled similar antics on me. What parent — well, modern-day parent — hasn’t experienced that?
But that little scenario never crossed my mind when I was imagining what having a baby would be like. I thought about carefree days at the beach making sandcastles; baking chocolate chip cookies together; biking and hiking and exploring the wonders
of nature. I thought about the fun times.
I never once imagined having a kid would involve meltdowns in the checkout line at
Target or sleepless nights holding a croupy
child in a steamy-hot bathroom or moments of sheer panic when he disappeared at the park
or how many times Rob and I were exhausted, pissed off, fought or were resentful over something related to The Kid.
And if I saw that happening to others, I thought, “It will be different for me.”
“Children may provide unrivaled moments
of joy. But they also provide unrivaled moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak,” writes Jennifer Senior in “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting.” “Loving one’s children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing.”
But, isn’t that the same for just about
When I met Rob, it was magical — we laughed,
we talked, we dreamed, we had great sex, we played so well together. “Oh, so that’s what we look like as a couple,” I thought.
Then we got married.
And a new couple emerged. It’s not what I expected. Resentment, frustration, anger, obliviousness — where did these things come from?
Then we had Trent. Again, a new couple, emerged, and a new me — me as Mom.
It’s not what I expected.
Then I got divorced.
During the confusing, painful months before and after our marriage busted up, I didn’t know what to expect — and that, oddly enough, made me open to the possibilities of what was, not what I thought it would be.
I had no expectations of what my future would be like; I had no friggin’ idea. It wasn’t part of the plan — you know, fall in love, get married, have kids, white-picket fenced house … I had never been a 40-something divorced mom of a kid in suburbia. And so I never felt like something was wrong (well, despite my grieving over my marriage, which was fast becoming my past) or right. There was no road map to follow, no blueprint of what being a 40-something divorced mom of a kid in suburbia looked like.
Everyone talks about how having unrealistic expectations messes things up — dating, marriage, parenting — but it’s hard not to have any expectations. Still, the fewer we have, the happier we seem to be.
So, I realized you can take what Jennifer says about kids and replace it with whatever you’re struggling with and it still makes sense:
- “Dating may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
- “Marriage may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
- “College may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
- “Work may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
Because we think we know what they “should” look like, and then we get disappointed when it differs from our expectations.
I had no expectations of divorced life, and, you know, it has moments of joy, frustration, anxiety, heartbreak. But, I am happier than I ever could have imagined. What do I make of that?
- What have you ever gotten yourself into that you think, “Hmm, it’s not what I expected …”?
- Have you ever gone into something with no expectations, and been happily surprised?
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