Children are a lesson in lowering your expectations.
We all think we know what it will be like when we have kids, how they will act and more importantly, how we will act. We come into parenting with so many foolish expectations of how everything will go, all the beautiful moments we will share, and our children spend the rest of their lives dismantling that notion and building reality in its place. I know this, and yet I still routinely fall prey to the trap of anticipating how a certain moment or experience will go, only to be disappointed when the reality of my very real toddler doesn’t line up with whatever fantasy I imagined. The gifts you thought would be received a certain way, the “firsts” you imagined framed in glorious celebration, the special experiences that would be shared with reverent awe- those don’t usually go as planned.
We are a baseball family and I love it, love going to games together, watching them at home, and cheering on James’ favorite team. We hauled Henry to so many games his first summer, mostly because our extroverted-since-infancy baby would happily snooze or smile in the crowded and hot ballpark, versus cry and fuss at home. That kid has grown to love any and all sports, and we were so excited to take him to a baseball game this summer, now that he would really understand what it was. James couldn’t wait to share their first father-son ballgame together, to watch and bask and revel in the glory of the great American past-time.
Instead, Henry got super high on sugary food about an hour into the game, didn’t want to stay in his seat, and ended the evening by running in deranged circles and screaming. We had still had fun, but it was not at all the holy baseball moment we had imagined and honestly, that was disappointing.
But then a couple weeks ago, James was watching a baseball game on a Sunday afternoon during naptime. Henry woke up and I carried him still snuggly in his sleepsack and dropped him on James on the couch while I went to go get Etta. Instead of hopping up and running around like he always does, Henry burrowed in as close to James as he could and started asking questions about the game, about the players and the team and what everyone was doing. He cheered as James cheered, called out the phrases that James fed him, and for much longer than I could have anticipated, he snuggled in and shared some Sunday afternoon baseball with his Daddy.
He still talks about it all the time, that baseball game he saw. He wants to play it every day, loved when James and his brother played catch when we were in Indiana, and treats every stick as a baseball bat and every round object as a ball. The magical baseball moment we wanted didn’t come when we planned it, but rather on a quiet Sunday afternoon when we leaned in to Henry’s interest and made time for extra snuggles and explanations.
That’s the thing with toddlers, and I’m sure it will be true in some way at any age: they don’t just fit into the mold of Life With Children, and trying to squeeze them in there only ends in frustration. Instead, I’m learning to take the magic moments as they come, to love them as they come, and to make space in our days for them to happen. The moments we could never have possibly planned are the very best of all.