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Missing the Fireworks

July 5, 2011

I watched a little boy and his dad, about two rows in front of us. It became apparent that this was the father-son duo’s first college football game together. I think the boy was about 4 or 5 years old. The little boy, with a ball cap sitting snuggly on his head, looked all around him, seemingly in awe. Taking in all the sights and sounds and smells. At one point, preoccupied with a piece of paper or a food wrapper of some sort, the boy became oblivious to everything else around him. But then, the fireworks started exploding over the score board, and his dad just couldn’t let him miss the show! I remember, though, that the dad physically had to turn the little boy’s head towards the fireworks show so he wouldn’t miss it. The little boy was so absorbed in what basically amounted to trash, that the dad lovingly, but adamantly, intervened.

Ten, fifteen years later I still remember watching that father and son because that brief moment encapsulated a truth I’ve needed over and over again.

Before I even saw the positive pregnancy test results, I already had expectations for my experience as a parent. For one, I expected to have children with red hair (I tell Ben that’s why I married him, after all). But I also expected that my experience would essentially follow the norms outlined in all the pregnancy/baby/parenting books and blogs and forums I’d read. And I even expected (once I was actually pregnant) to have a natural birthing process.

But while I was busy compiling my list of expectations, groundwork for a whole other reality was being laid. Red-headed baby – check. Normal pregnancy – check. Natural birth – not a chance. Textbook baby – no check. I’ve read before that expectations kill relationships.

As I find myself in the midst of a story whose last page I can’t read, my expectations kill the joy that I could find if I was only willing to experience it differently than I planned. I planned to enjoy watching my son speedily check off important milestones and be the picture of perfect health. And on the hard days, I experience deep frustration that our experience looks, feels, seems so different than everyone else’s. But can you imagine how much wild celebration there is when we finally do reach one of those coveted milestones, even if (or especially because) it’s two months late? We work hard for every success and we celebrate hard because of it.

Some days it’s easy to throw my expectations to the wind. And some days it’s hard. But the picture of that little boy absored with trash while huge fireworks explode around him reminds me that sometimes it’s worth looking up.

PS – I’m humbled by all the love and affirmation so many of you gave as a response to my first blog. Thank you for affirming me in my vulnerability and encouraging me with your own stories. And just to keep you in the loop, our next doctor’s appointment is July 14th with a pediatric neurologist.

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