A tale of two expectations


The other day, I took a gamble and brought Clark to the lake right around naptime. This could have gone very poorly, with just one parent and one overtired kid and too much sun. I told myself it would probably be a disaster. I gave myself permission to pack it all up and head back home as soon as the winds started to shift.

In my experience, a skipped nap usually means a shitty afternoon. But in my experience, for 1 out of every 10 skipped naps, Clark will actually be chill and delightfully subdued. This, magically, was one of those times. We got to the beach and set up our blanket and beach umbrella. We lounged and ate PB&Js, read some books, dug in the sand and through it all, he was a sleepy beautiful relaxed angel. Even when our beach umbrella cartwheeled away from us, pointed metal stand and all, and I had to chase it — in my bathing suit — further down the beach than you will ever believe, while drawing more attention to the fiasco by shouting “Watch out!” to innocent families in our path — even THEN, Clark was cool and calm. After I safely tucked the beach umbrella away, he asked me, “Mommy, did you save the day?” And I was like, “You’re damn right I did, son. Did you see how fast I ran? In my bathing suit?!”

All to say, I had low expectations for the lake outing. So because it went moderately fine, I have now added it to my Best of Summer 2019 list to be remembered with fondness for years to come.


This brings us to a recap of an altogether different experience. Our local library has a summer reading program for adults, kids and little kids. Obviously, I signed us both up. One might say that this is a story of high expectations.

Clark loves books, but he had not shown any understanding or interest at all in the summer reading program. I remained undeterred. Every time he read a book, he was supposed to color in a shape on a tracking sheet. How fun! Books! Coloring! What’s not to love? Ok, fine, I had to bribe Clark to color in the shapes. Sure, I colored some in myself. And yeah, maybe I had dreamed up the perfect photo that we would take at the library, with the two of us smiling and holding up our reading prizes together at the end of summer. What’s so wrong with that?

Yesterday after work, I happily announced to Clark that we were going to the library to get our prizes. He countered with a suggestion to visit the “ice cream store”. Desperate, I conceded that would be a good celebration for our summer reading success. When we got to the library, Clark had a choice of three different colored prizes. He picked green. And then he threw a fit because he couldn’t have all of the colors. Negotiations broke down. He screamed. And screamed. We made a quick exit to the car. He cried and yelled for 20 minutes outside of the library and another 5 minutes in the driveway. We finally made our way inside the house and, in further desperation, I scooped us each a bit of ice cream. To his credit, Clark truthfully reported to chris that he, in fact, had been crying and yelling. Chris asked him if he needed to apologize to me for all of the yelling and Clark said, “Yeah, and the tantrum too. The tantrum outside.”

So that was our magical library visit and the culmination of our summer reading challenge. A total and complete disaster. I’m embarrassed to admit how high my hopes were for this occasion. As soon as the plan began to unravel, so did I. To be fair though, Clark obviously unraveled more. Also to be fair, I ate the rest of our ice cream after he went to bed. Such is the delicate balance of life with a three-year-old.

No lesson or advice here, just an observation of what expectations can do to a person.