Expecting the Unexpected, and how to be “Flexible”

Inflexibility is one of my biggest flaws. I’ve learned the value of flexibility. Now I’m trying to figure out the “how”. How do I become a more flexible person?

Having kids definitely forces flexibility. I realized that I was no longer in control of my time when my oldest son was about three days old. Now, three years later, I’m definitely more able to go with the flow.

I have no problem with changing course when the poo hits the fan, and I’m pretty good at unexpected things that come up as a result of toddlers being toddlers.

ER visits? No problem. Diaper explosions? Bring them on. I’m very proud of how much more flexible I’ve become in this area. (And I know that it had nothing to do with me. It was necessary. I think I blacked out at some point and came to with flexibility super powers. There’s a “parenting necessities” chip in me somewhere- I just know it.)

I don’t like the unexpected when it comes to parenting, but I’m able to accept it. I can let my disappointment roll of, because toddlers can’t be held responsible for not living up to my (sometimes unrealistic) expectations.

What bugs me so badly about myself is that my flexibility is so limited! My expectations of situations and people can sometimes be so rigid that they shape the way I experience reality.

Today my family and I took a short trip to Waco, tx. I had the whole trip planned down to the food truck where we’d eat lunch.

We were going to go to Magnolia Market. We were going to play Nerf football and have a picnic on the lawn. I was going to get sweet pictures of my boys at the silos. We were going to walk through the garden and talk about all of the different plants. We’d leave around 2, so the boys could nap in the van on the way home. It was going to be the perfect family day/ tiny vacation before little sister arrives.

My expectations were that my plans would go off without a hitch, we’d wake up early, drive to Waco, get breakfast at the silos bakery, everyone would be in an awesome mood, and we’d have a blast doing exactly what momma wants to do (for once dangit! I packed a football for goodness sake!).

The reality of the situation is that life happens.

Yesterday was the day that we finally got the ball rolling on kitchen renovations (it’s a long story, but our kitchen flooring has been MIA for months as the result of some water damage. It took homeowners insurance a long time to approve stuff…so, here we are.) We picked out flooring yesterday and we were told that it would be installed in the next couple of weeks. Awesome! Kind of. This meant that we needed to figure out cabinets asap!

My husband suggested that we cancel waco and go to IKEA today, but I convinced him that we could do it all! We went to IKEA yesterday afternoon. It was a fairly productive trip. We left with a good idea of what we’re going to do in the kitchen.

This morning my husband said, “let’s go to Waco.” I was so excited! I frantically packed everything and got the boys all cute for their silo picture.

We got in the van and off we went. The drive was smooth, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood.

We made it to the market and it was a mad house. There were hundreds of people crammed into the market. The line at the bakery was far too long (food can’t be that good, can it?!). Our double stroller definitely wasn’t the right choice for all of the bobbing and weaving that we were doing, and I became anxious.

Our sensory sensitive three year old started to get very uncomfortable. He acts out when he’s overwhelmed, so he started screaming.

I started to feel super guilty for looking around while my husband was trying to push a giant boat full of angry toddlers around a crowded store. I told him that he could take them outside to play if he wanted to.

He decided to park the double stroller and get the boys out. Our boys have a reputation for being happier when held, and the store was too busy for the stroller anyway. Big brother’s sensory tantrum continued. He needed to leave the market, so we went outside to regroup.

My husband told me to go back inside and shop. He’d hang out with the boys.

I went back inside and shopped for a few minutes. I was rushing and I wasn’t enjoying myself because my expectations weren’t being fulfilled. I wanted everyone to be happy!

I went outside to see if my family was having fun. It was sweltering, my husband was melting, and both boys were fussing about wanting to play soccer with some older kids on the lawn.

When I’m feeling particularly anxious I like to find (or create) problems to solve. If I’m home this looks like tazmanian devil style cleaning. Today I decided that everyone was super miserable because of me, so the least I could do was go play with my boys, at a zillion weeks pregnant, in 100° weather, on a lawn full of flying balls and running kids.

So I dug the Nerf football out of the book bag and got Big Brother out of the stroller. We played for five minutes or so before little brother joined in. My husband sat on the bench.

There were some high school age boys tossing a football around. Little brother started to follow their ball as it flew through the air. There were several times that I thought he was about to get squished. There were a few times that I thought I was going to get squished.

I took the boys back over to my husband and explained that momma had to stop to keep little sister safe. It was getting too crazy over there.

Big Brother tried to argue before he exploded. He told me that it hadn’t gotten crazy and he still wanted to play football.

My expectation had been to pass the boys off to my husband when I tapped out. The reality of the situation was that daddy wasn’t being difficult by sitting and watching, he was preserving himself. He didn’t want to run around with the boys and get sweaty because he hadn’t brought a change of clothes.

I looked at my husband and he suggested that we leave and go to the Waco z-o-o.

The lump in my throat grew, and I started to tear up. I told him that we could leave.

He informed the boys that we were going to go see some animals (something that they both usually love).

Little brother was excited, but big brother, still in his upset state, shouted, “no! I want to play at the silos!”. He screamed this about 20 times on the way back to the car.

I don’t want to go either! I want to play at the silos too! I want to eat lunch at the best food trucks in the world. I want to buy some new dishtowels for out nonexistent kitchen. I want to soak in the smell of Joanna’s signature summer candle. I want to…

My internal winning was interrupted by a sighting of the silo baking company food truck. It was so close! I could just grab something on the way to the van. I looked up and saw that my husband and screaming sons were too far ahead. There was a line. It just didn’t make sense.

More fuel for my pity party.

We got in the van (big brother still upset- neither my husband nor I had the patience to help him through this tantrum. It felt hopeless.) My husband asked little brother if he wanted to go see animals. We decided on the zoo and set our course on the GPS.

We got there. Everyone was happy (except momma). We had a great day in Waco with the boys. Big Brother really enjoyed the animals (he even fed a giraffe some lettuce, which momma was not expecting! Bad sensory tantrums can sometimes last all day.)

I was miserable through most of our day at the zoo. I smiled and played with the boys. I did all of the things that a momma has to do on a trip to the zoo. I took pictures, and wiped my kids Cheeto faces. I held conversations with my husband without being difficult. I was trying to be somewhat pleasant, but I was so incredibly disappointed that my day had been ruined.

I wiped stray tears off of my cheeks all day.

Y’all, I was miserable because I was behaving flexibly, but I wasn’t really being flexible! My expectations were ruined, so the day was ruined. This is not the first time that this has happened.

I often choose to be unhappy because I cling so tightly to my expectations. I let myself get hurt by people when my expectations of their behavior outweigh how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking.

I hold on to what I wanted long after the situation has changed directions. I let my broken expectations fester.

What I should have done yesterday (hi! It’s a new day now, and my pregnant brain is too muddled to try and write as if it’s not. We went to Waco on Friday. It’s now Saturday.) was let go of my expectations when I realized that my plans weren’t going to work. This moment was much sooner than when we actually left the silos. I’d say that I knew we wouldn’t be able to stay longer than 30 minutes (about how long we were there) as soon as I saw how crowded it was. None of us does well in big crowds, not just big brother.

I should have expressed how upset I was that my plans weren’t going to work, and I should have proposed that we do something else in Waco. Without expecting my husband to say, “oh no honey, this is your day. You stay here and enjoy yourself and I’ll take these two crazy children and find something to entertain them for who knows how long. The heat is no problem.”

I should have stopped grasping for control of an uncontrollable situation! I should have let myself feel so I could move on. I should have corrected all of my negative thoughts about how unfair things were. I should have choosen to dwell on the good parts of the day, but I didn’t. And I almost missed out on a great day of memories with my family.

I’m not flexible, and I give my expectations too much power, but I’m desperately trying to learn from situations like these. I don’t like feeling disappointed, and it’s up to me to change how I perceive situations. No one else is responsible for my happiness!

Moving forward I’m going to continue to choose to learn from difficult situations. I’m going to try to be more aware of my unrealistic expectations, and I’m going to choose not to get stuck in a negative head space. I don’t want to nearly miss sweet memories again!

Thanks for reading. I’d like to hear about some of your unmet expectations and what you’ve learned from them. Leave a comment below!

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