Great Expectations

Great ExpectationsI remember the moment distinctly. I would keep it entirely to myself, a secret between me and the not-so-quiet of the night, except I’m hopeful sharing it will allow another mama respite. Our sons were born 19 months apart. Even in the best of times of supportive family and friends, children are intense.

One night after a third feeding and as many shirts covered in spit up, while my 4-week-old screamed through a diaper change, I found myself screaming back in exacerbation, “WHAT DO YOU WANT, CHILD?!” Shockingly, that gorgeous babe did not stop to let me in on his secret requests. I slammed the bedroom door, temporarily infuriated that my husband did not immediately hear this and make it easier for me in that moment. I took a deep, exasperated breath, one that leads to a sigh teeming with disappointment; then I dutifully swaddled the lad, sat back down in my comfy seat, and basked in the glow of darkness because I felt unworthy of anything else in that moment.

On the other side of sleep, I woke refreshed and with new perspective on both myself and the babe. I actually knew exactly what my child needed; he had no secrets. He wanted my love and nurturing touch. It was quite a boost in competence to realize he simply needed me. His expectations were actually quite low in some regards. He just wanted me, milk, a dry bum, and a snuggled sweet spot on my chest. I could do that. Turns out my toddler’s needs are just about the same.

The hard work came not in seeing my son’s reasonable expectations of me, but in admitting I had high expectations of him. Many of them weren’t even my expectations but this culture of parenting where if you read this book, buy that gadget, or follow this method, then a baby will sleep. I realized I was lost in the expectation of a sleeping baby. If baby wasn’t asleep at night, baby was wrong. Didn’t he know it was night?! I expected a convenient baby. I soon realized much of my frustration with our toddler was rooted in expecting a convenient toddler as well.

Such a simple shift in my expectation—expecting that my 8 week old WILL wake up in the night suddenly made each night an opportunity rather than a task. Yes, I was still tired. Now when I am flustered I can almost always root my frustration down to my expectations. Some expectations are worth having, but sometimes they don’t add up.

My shift in expectation wasn’t a magic bullet that kept me perky and bright every moment of every day, but this night sticks with me still, over a year later, because it holds true for me in a deep, meaningful way.

Lynette Moran shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 1 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

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