“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”-Bruce Lee
Our son’s school had an open house this morning. He could hardly sleep last night because he didn’t want to be late for the “party.” This was our first large gathering since Covid began. Our son had waited a long time for an opportunity to return to a world he barely knew, as he was only 2.5 years when quarantine first began.
Fate was on our side today. We pulled into the school’s parking lot at 10:02am for the event that began at 10am. We played with Llamas, jumped in bouncy castles, ate snacks, planted some seeds, did some face painting, and topped it off with some dairy free Sonic the Hedgehog ice cream.
As parents of young children, days like these are rare. To add to the miracle, we had our nephew with us and still everything was effortless. No fighting, no crying, no accidents, no one got sick, it was beautiful.
After the party we came home without a plan. The weather was perfect, and we ended up spending most of the afternoon outside. I tested the sprinkler system while the kids tried not to get wet. There were water guns, climbing, building, games, laughing, and fun.
As dinner time approached, I asked the kids if they wanted dandelion pancakes? Without answering me, the kids enthusiastically set out to gather dandelions from the front yard. At first, they thought I was kidding but once they realized I was serious their imaginations went wild.
In hindsight, using the word “pancake” to describe the fried dandelion flowers was a bit misleading. I imagine the kids pictured big fluffy pancakes not little fried flowers but what was said was said and my clarification helped nothing. Their expectations were set.
The dandelion pancakes turned out delicious, or at least I thought so. But I also had very low expectations and just the fact that I didn’t light anything on fire or burn myself was enough for me to continue riding my pink cloud of happiness. I felt assured the kids would like them because they were fried and delicious and even if they didn’t, at least I got my front yard weeded.
The rest of the dinner exceeded my expectations as well. Chicken thighs, rice, kimchee, and a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables. I was confident that this was going to be a dinner to remember. Then a crowd formed in the kitchen until I conceded and let everyone take a dandelion pancake.
Our son ate a dandelion pancake, gave a thumbs up and left the kitchen. Our nephew shrugged as he ate it and said it was not bad. Our daughter threw it on the floor without trying it. My husband tried it and immediately started complaining of the weird taste. A few seconds later his tongue went numb and then his throat.
Turns out my husband is allergic to dandelions. There were a few moments of panic but once we were able to get allergy medicine in him, the numbness ceased. It took a few minutes to get everyone settled back down and then the kids let me know how they really felt. “Mom, this is the worst thing you’ve ever made” and “It tasted like; you know…. Burps” were just a few of the comments hurdled my way regarding my dandelion pancakes.
Next it was the chicken that grossed out the kids. We don’t eat much meat and I often call a meat substitute whatever meat it is supposed to be substituting. My son assumed that when I said chicken that I met vegetarian chicken, not a hunk of real chicken meat still attached to the bone. The disappointment was contagious.
After some careful surgery on the chicken thighs, I was able to separate the meat from anything “icky” and convinced the kids to eat it. I was regaining their trust. Within a half hour or so we were back on track and all having a lovely time. We even had a good laugh about the dandelion pancakes. The jokes transcended to two more guests who arrived later and continued until they left, gently refraining from taking the dandelion pancakes to go.
Today was a rare day that will live in my heart and for that I am grateful. However, I can plainly see how expectations impacted our collective happiness, albeit briefly. The success of the morning’s outing to my son’s school was because my son had almost nothing to compare it to. My nephew didn’t know we were going until we were on our way and our daughter was just excited to be going in the car. Expectations were low or non-existent; so of course, we had a marvelous time.
The dandelion pancakes were the crack in the day’s cement. The children worked hard to harvest the dandelions and their imaginations ran wild with what a dandelion pancake might look/taste like. Then they had to hurry up and wait as appetizing smells wafted from the kitchen. Then in the moment of truth, shock of my husband’s allergy shook them and suddenly the promise of dandelion pancakes felt like a betrayal. The mood was quickly recovered but that could have easily been the end of it. We’ve all had experiences where everything was going grand until…
There is always something we can do better. Every day, even the good ones, there are opportunities for reflection, refinement, and if required, change.
Today I remember that expectations are precursors to unhappiness. The only thing I can expect is to trust my own reasoned thought and to act in accordance with my ethics. To live in someone else’s expectations is impossible. Comparing my inside being to someone else’s outward reflection is a fruitless endeavor. Dandelion Pancakes will serve me as a reminder of the dangers of expectations.