When Expectations Ruin Reality

As a surprise for our kiddos, we bought the coolest toy ever! Today our new MOSS Exofabulatronixx 5200 arrived bright and early this morning. Unfortunately, it arrived several hours earlier than planned. Which meant we either needed to change our plans, or enforce the current plan. We ended up enforcing the current plan. Ella and I took Chester to the dog park, everyone else stayed home. (Ella would have been really upset had I changed plans.)


Ryan and I planned to get a video of the kiddos opening the box and then do an unboxing video of the gift. The first part of the plan went perfectly. The second part, well, that was a disaster!

Normally, I’m the one behind the camera, pausing, and helping them, then restarting the recording. I thought that since Ryan was there, he’d just help them out and keep things running smoothly. I envisioned a slower process of taking the items out of the box one at a time. Ryan pictured something very different.

I became frustrated and asked him to step in and help. But he didn’t understand what I meant. To him they didn’t need help, so he never stepped in.

In a fit of frustration I stopped recording and told everyone to put the stuff back in the box so we could try again. Ryan got mad at me for stopping their fun. I got more mad. Ella became very agitated, cried, and needed to leave the room. Agatha carefully put everything back in the box. Cordelia laid down on the table, and Brom ran around like a wild goose.

We never did an unboxing video.

It’s never easy to have your faults shown to the world. When your faults engulf the day and cloud your home, it’s easy to feel immense guilt and berate yourself for making a mistake. I know that’s been my reaction today. I’ve felt like crying, I’ve felt like yelling, I’ve felt like showing and telling Ryan just how wrong he is and what he needs to do better. I’ve wanted to blame someone. Anyone. But not me.

But none of those things will help. So what should a parent, or anyone, do when they make a big mistake like this? One where they lose their cool? One where they hurt other people?

The first thing is to be gentle with yourself. You made a mistake. It’s not the end of the world. The hurt feelings can be soothed. Even yours.

Take a deep breath, look at your intentions. My intent and expectations were to create a fun afternoon and capture that on film. (Ryan had the same intent, just a different way of expressing it.)


The rest of it can’t be changed, but it can be learned from.

Ryan and I each had a plan, but neither one of us shared the details with the other person. We both assumed the other person knew what we expected. Neither one of us talked to the children about what we wanted. And when things began to go off course, neither one of us stopped and talked about what we were feeling. Instead we both waited until everything exploded.

In hindsight it’s easy to see what we needed to do instead, but in the moment everything seemed to move too quickly.

Expectations vs reality. Our expectations of life are often clouded by fairy tales and happy stories where everyone always gets along and all jokes are funny. But reality is very different. In reality people miscommunicate and things don’t run smoothly. In reality sometimes people are sad, angry, or otherwise overwhelmed by emotions. In reality people make mistakes. And that’s okay.

In reality, apologies show my children that I am aware I made a mistake and plan to prevent the same mistake from happening in the future. In reality, tomorrow’s a new day and I can begin again.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Bronwen Lee says:

    I think your first step is the most important, or at least it is in my house. Being gentle with ourselves is what stunts the negativity in it’s path. An apology is important, but if it comes with a massive load of guilt it’s just more negativity. My kids can apologize no problem, but it’s when they beat themselves up that pains me. I work hard at showing my children what forgiveness looks like in all forms. It’s not easy to forgive and trust ourselves again, but if we can’t do it, how can we expect others to?


    1. Exactly! It’s been a hard lesson for us. We grew up with a lot of shame and blame so breaking the cycle needs to start with us no longer shaming ourselves or anyone else in the family.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. danielfrings says:

    I think the apology is sooo important – none of us are perfect, and it sets such an important example when you do your best to genuinely set things write. Its also really tough :-S


    1. Making a mistake as a parent is one of the worst things in the world for me! Seeing the look of hurt or, worse, fear on their little faces just cuts me to the core. Yes, an apology goes so far to restoring their trust, and luckily children could teach us all a thing or two about unconditional love.

      Liked by 1 person

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