“Expectations are premeditated resentments.” -Anonymous
For two years straight, illness, forced quarantine, or unusual circumstance, like our babysitter and all three back-ups coming down with Covid at the same time, blocked us from participating in life. We missed five weddings, two funerals, numerous parties, galas, and every holiday ranging from Christmas to Labor Day. The first few times it was easy to take it with a light heart, as we’d make our plans and laughingly say that we need to make sure everyone stays healthy or say “fingers crossed” with a smile.
A year later, things started to get more cynical. We’d make preemptively prepare for the worst and made backup plan on top of backup plan – which inevitably still seemed to fall through. Even when we’d decide that one of us going alone was better than none of us, we’d all end up getting sick and no one would go.
About the two-year mark, after two entire cycles of holidays had been missed, our family life was stained and the relationship with my husband was starting to buckle. Even our dogs were impacted by the inconsistency which became apparent by our labradoodle’s increase in obsessively licking his paw.
Then we all got Norovirus followed quickly by Covid for the kids, and an unspecified lung infection for me. For eight weeks everybody felt cruddy. Then one day it was over. We all felt good and strong as we had survived the dreaded Covid and decided right then we would make the most of our kids enhanced immunity and get back into life.
First, we went to Chicago and day trips around Minnesota. Then we started going back to all the places we used to avoid, like dining in a restaurant. Life picked up its pace and hope flooded our household. Our favorite nanny who had taken extended time off due to a variety of circumstances informed us she was able to return two nights a week and excitement griped us at the prospect of getting some time to ourselves.
We tried our best to keep our expectations in check but the idea of being out in the evening, without the kids, pulled on us like moths to light.
Last night, the kids both ate well, and everyone was in good spirits when their favorite nanny arrived. The kids were so enthralled that they barely noticed when we left. The nanny let us know that we didn’t have to rush and that she could stay late. The night was at our feet. Freedom was ours at last.
Before we reached the movie theater we were in a fight. I’m not sure how it started or even what it was about, but it killed whatever excitement we had for the movie, and we abandoned the idea. We drove around for more than an hour fighting about every grievance we each had about the other. Then we reached common ground and leaned into gratitude for each other.
By the time our fight had concluded, our options for the evening drastically shrunk as it was Sunday, and we had no real plan. We opted for a carwash and grocery shopping. We had a great time doing both and ended up staying out until nearly 11pm.
My husband and I agreed that our fight was probably unavoidable and necessary. It was just too much pressure to make our first date night, in as long as we could remember, special. Although, we didn’t have any specific or spoken expectations, we both wanted that night to be something it wasn’t destined to be.
The result of our date night fight was a shift in focus and expectations. Wandering the aisles of Byerly’s at 9pm on a Sunday turned out to be the perfect activity for us.
It is a difficult task to place expectations upon ourselves and not others. It’s even more of a task to place right sized expectations on outcomes. This is apparent in the home as well as in the workplace, as people looking in the same direction doesn’t mean that they are sharing the same view.
As I reflect on our date night fight, I feel thankful it happened because it called out and smashed all our expectations for the evening. There was no settling or compromise as the foundation of our plans was pulled out from beneath us. In the end, spending time together away from the children was the only thing that mattered and together we eked out a fun filled evening at the grocery store.
Today, I remember that life is best lived unscripted and that expectations can rob future joy.