“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Alexander Pope
At first this quote seems depressing. Who wants to go through life expecting nothing? After all, it's the Christmas season. I spend months in preparation just so December 25 is full of special memories and happy children and family. And, to quote Shakespeare, therein lies the rub.
I build up the holidays and birthdays so much in my mind, I'm often left with a lingering sense of disappointment. It's slight, but nagging. My children constantly hand me altered and re-prioritized lists, and I run around trying to make them happy. I send out 150 Christmas cards, bake cookies for neighbors, and give gifts to everyone from the mailman to the office staff at school.
One of my dearest friends shocked me in college... her parents didn't make a big deal out of birthdays. What? I was floored. Not make a big deal out of birthdays. I'd never heard of such a thing. But she always seemed happy on her birthday anyway. To this day, I try to do special things for her birthday.
I'll never forget one of my birthdays. We had just relocated to Wilmington, NC. As usual, we moved during the summer close to my August birthday. I remember sitting on some boxes opening gifts. Later that night, I cried in my room. My presents: a Smurfette and a gold frame. Mom consoled me, and reminded me I had asked for both of them.
Now, as a mother myself, I realize my poor mom was in the middle of yet another move and probably went out of her way to find two of the items I had mentioned. In her stress and chaos, did she mistake a one-time statement about liking Smurfette as a gift request? Maybe. But now the Smurfette and gold frame no longer represent a bad gift. They represent a mom who loved me and was trying her best.
In the spirit of the perfect Christmas or birthday, I often create high expectations for my children and myself. Expectations none of us can live up to. It's virtually impossible to expect nothing from big events, but I am learning to downplay the idea of perfection and highlight the fun in trying my best.
Just the other day, we made a batch of cookies. They came out looking pathetic and flat, more like cookie pancakes. We laughed it off, got out every color sprinkle we could fun, beautified those babies, and ate them. Each of my girls said they were the best cookies ever. Were they? No, but the laughter sure did make them sweeter.
Wishing everyone a beautifully messy holiday, full of endearing mistakes and memories!
Funny aside: Sure enough my middle daughter asked for a Smurfette and frame for her birthday, so the picture is from her set. I got quite the chuckle out of buying it for her!