it is no small wonder that in our culture, a pregnant woman is referred to as a person who is “expecting.” not only are the cells of her child multiplying rapidly in her uterus, so too are the visions of her future multiplying in her consciousness, along with the imagined qualities of a little person who has yet to meet the world. for ten months, expectations build super-human momentum; they crouch, waiting to bully the hell out of the reality that begins on birthing day. starting with variations from the birthing plan, breastfeeding troubles, meconium diapers, and the like, new parents quickly learn to expect the unexpected. but this difficult work is a breeze compared to its necessary and slowly-unfolding inverse:
learning to unexpect the expected.
every day of my last five years has been fraught with compromised parenting ideals in the face of the most unpredictable embodiments of wonder and mischeif. i have not bid farewell to all of my expectations. this is a life-long challenge, i think. but i have gotten used to the exercise of unexpecting in the same way that i am used to my blue jeans. every day, i pull them on. every day, i zip them up. every day, they poke me in the gut just a little.
we enjoyed a picnic while the boys practiced skipping rocks. the monkey, encouraged by his more daring cousins, dropped from a rope swing into the deeper water. we hiked for a mile or so on a creek-side path before cooling off in the water and returning to the canoe.
as we paddled back to our cabin, andy and i had the same thought at the same time.
“this is what i thought having kids was going to be like,” i said.
“me too,” he said.
and the strange thing is that the summer has afforded us several moments like this — cherished, surprisingly familiar moments. and as we are meandering down a wooded path, or piled into our car on the blue ridge parkway, or looking out from atop mt. mitchell, it dawns on us that these scenes are familiar to us because they are straight from the postcards, sent to us through time from our pre-kid selves. after committing ourselves doggedly to the exercise of unexpecting, we have been shocked when little bits of the hope we’ve released come boomeranging back to us with more majesty and hilarity than we dared to pen in our dreams long ago.
perhaps this is the beauty of unexpecting. when we are occasionally able to stand down the crouching bullies, who loom before us with idealized pictures of ourselves and our children, we will be able to glimpse a life that is really pretty sweet on its own terms.
it’s enough inspiration to keep me paddling on.