I’d always wanted a family. A big family. As a kid I’d dreamed of all the kids I’d have and the things we’d do together and how life would be. As an adult I guess I never let go of some of those expectations of how life would be with kids, and I think it’s time I examine those expectations to see if they were realistic to start with, if they were, is there a way I can change things so that my kids can be successful so I can experience that piece of parenting still, and if not, to allow myself to mourn the loss of that dream. Otherwise, it feels like my kids are always “letting me down” even though they don’t know it and it’s not even an active or conscious thought on my part, but those expectations and dreams that are in my subconscious are floating around, and every time one of them gets smashed or blown to smithereens, it hurts, and it makes an event that isn’t all that important on the outside a really big deal on the inside.
One of things I always dreamed about was taking my kids to Disneyland. It was a dream of mine as a kid (as it was every kids’!) and I couldn’t wait to grow up and take my kids there. However, Disneyland is not going to work for my kids. Too much stimulation, too many people, it’s just overwhelming for them. Heck, it’s overwhelming for me and I’m a grown-up (I went last year with friends – no kids!). So what is it about the Disney thing that is really important to me? When I really think deep, and pare it down, I envision myself eating cotton candy with my kids, riding rides, and playing those you-can-never-win games. Well, I don’t need Disney for that. And I sure as hell don’t need to pay $100 a head just to get in the door for that experience. In a smaller environment, say the little carnivals that come through all summer, in the afternoons where it’s not very busy, I can have those experiences with my kids. I can ride the rides with them, play the games, eat the cotton candy. And yes, they may still get overwhelmed and overstimulated, they may still blow it up and have a meltdown – but I didn’t pay $100 each to walk in the door and we’re 10 minutes from home instead of 1500 miles. And – we can try again. And again. And again. My dream of enjoying these things with my kids is not dead, is not destroyed, and it doesn’t have to be Disney in reality. I can adjust my expectations and work on the dream.
Another thing I always envisioned in having a family was sitting around playing board games, laughing and having fun. In my house, board games, or any games, ends up being a pout on somebody’s part, a meltdown on someone else’s claiming someone’s cheating (even if they’re not), and usually the board game is thrown across the room and it takes weeks to find all the little pieces. No matter how much we tried to teach our kids that it’s just a game, who cares who wins or loses, the fun is in the playing together and having fun (for years we tried!), it never worked. And we stopped playing games together because it just wasn’t fun for anyone. Were my expectations realistic, that Hasbro commercial of a happy family sitting around playing games, laughing? Truthfully, no. All kids hate to lose, no matter what age they are. And some adults, as well, can’t seem to give up the competitive spirit, for that matter. So the entire expectation was unrealistic to start. What was it I wanted to accomplish by doing this? I wanted to play with my kids, having fun doing something that we mutually enjoyed. When I break it down like that it gives it a whole new spin. How many things can I do with my kids that are mutually enjoyable, that are play? A ton. And as far as board games? We’ve brought them back. It’s important for our kids to learn to lose, and to win gracefully (and not to cheat). We do get those moments – brief moments – where we’re all having fun. Now that’s more realistic for all families! And those are the moments I cherish, those Hasbro commercial moments, and hopefully my kids will remember those times fondly as well.
Another big thing I’d always wanted to do is projects with my kids, whether it be baking Pinterest-y cupcakes or building a birdhouse or learning about leaves on the local trails. That expectation might be quite possible for some families. But as it turns out, I fall short of this particular expectation from the get-go. I’m not crafty even a little, my few attempts at doing crafts with my kids have ended up with laughable results on my end (yes, my kids laughed at my results, theirs looked SO MUCH BETTER!) and because it was so much work for me, it bored the kids. So I have to accept the fact that if I want Pinterest-y cupcakes for their birthday party I’ll have to ask my neighbor to make them, if I want them to do crafts I’ll have to send them to craft camp, and if I want to go on the trails I’ll have to get over my fear of walking into a spider web. This dream, or expectation, is one I’ll have to give up because I can’t meet the expectations. But I’m ok with that.
Do you have expectations or dreams in your subconscious that are ruining times that could be fun and enjoyable with your kids because they aren’t “perfect”?