We are moving, so I am packing. I went upstairs today to start on the attic. I have been making deals with myself for days to begin the process, so I was feeling resigned with a hint of itchy pre-boredom as I went up the ladder. I was starting with the things we use least. It was a horse race between Colin’s college textbooks, my high school camping gear, and some ice skates–until I saw my breast pump peeking out of a bag. We had a winner…..
In the bag with the breast pump was a towel shaped like a duck, a tiny sock, a tennis ball, and a copy of What to Expect When You Are Expecting. I held the book in my hand. I turned it over. Then I ripped off the cover and the title page, which I ripped in half. Before I was totally aware of what I was doing, I started ripping more pages, like a bite of ice cream that turns into the whole pint. In minutes I had shredded the book. I was sitting on the attic floor looking at this huge mess and thinking, “maybe I can wrap glasses in it or something”, trying to make this weird random act of violence against this book make sense.
It does make sense though. It is one of the best selling books of all time, but it sends the wrong message. It sends the message that if you love your kid enough and you rock them in a chair and wear comfy clothes, and you start with peas instead of peaches and you watch and track their milestones, then you are in the clear. But that is wrong. You can do everything right and things can still go haywire. In fact they probably will.
Here is what I think you can expect:
- Expect that your 10-year-old will be a Minecraft genius but not remember that dirty clothes go in the washer.
- Expect that your 8-year-old will be charming and kind and wonderful, but may frequently have days when he cries three times before breakfast.
- Expect that no matter how much you love your 6 year old, she may not be able to say Mom because her brain isn’t wired the way yours is.
- Expect that you will look at your husband and feel like you haven’t seen him for days, even though you live in the same house.
- Expect that you will think that we need as many words for tired as the Eskimos have for snow. Not sleeping through the night for ten years and taking an Ambien on an overnight flight are two different kinds of tired.
- Expect that you will see your hands on your steering wheel and wonder why your mother is driving.
- Expect that you will look at your children at least once a day and think, “I really love them. I hope they turn out ok.”
- Expect that every day you get to begin again, and that is all that really matters.
I was a little embarrassed that I destroyed the book, I didn’t know I had any feeling about it whatsoever. I have learned that having children is not about expectation it’s about learning to see ourselves and them for who we really are and to love each other in spite of it. There will always be a gap between expectation and reality, so learn the basics: feed them, love them, apologize often and let them do the same, but don’t drift too far from what’s real. It’s the only thing that matters.