Expectations can be a dangerous thing.
Last week, we took Jack to see the Lion King musical (awesome, by the way). We bought our tickets months ago, and they weren’t cheap – especially because I’d been before and happened to know that we wanted an aisle seat for the most amazing experience (unfortunately, we chose the wrong aisle…!).
I told Jack about it months ago, and we literally counted down the weeks…and then the days…and then the hours.
In my head, our evening out went something like this: My mom would come and watch Claire while Charles and I took Jack out for some much-needed parents/son bonding time. We’d wear nice clothes and eat at a “fancy” restaurant (and enjoy the entire meal – Jack’s finally old enough to sit through a restaurant dinner, yay), and then we’d arrive early at Music Hall (the venue) so we could buy snacks and drinks and enjoy them under the gorgeous chandelier that I knew would enthrall Jack. When it was time for the show to start, Jack would sit quietly in anticipation as he watched one of his favorite movies come to life.
Ahhh, expectations. Always setting me up to be disappointed.
Here’s how the reality went down.
None of our dressy clothes were appropriate. It was too hot for pants, and Jack doesn’t own any fancy shorts (is that a thing?), so we decided to go in the clothes we’d been wearing all day. You know I’m a stay-at-home-mom, right? Right. So…no dressy clothes.
Jack had told us, repeatedly, that he wanted Macaroni & Cheese for dinner. The venue is at the Fairgrounds, and the show is running during the Fair. So we thought, Oh, how fun! It won’t be fancy, but we’ll eat at the Fair…surely we can find someone that sells Mac & Cheese, and Jack will LOVE getting to visit the Fair AND see the Lion King in one night!
We got to the Fair and traipsed across the Fairgrounds (and you know what they say about Texas, right? About everything being bigger here?) until we find the indoor food court (also a thing to know about Texas – it’s October, but it’s still HOT). The whining begins.
And OF COURSE, there was no macaroni to be found. Not even a fried version.
The whining turns into full-blown tantrum.
We buy pizza and a Belgian waffle (because yum, right?) and watch as Jack alternates between whining, crying, and taking a bite of the waffle. The whining is made extra whiny-ish by the powdered sugar all over Jack’s face.
We then walk back across the Fairgrounds to the venue. We’re pretty early, having given ourselves lots of time to navigate traffic and lines (that we didn’t experience). It’s mostly empty inside, and after giving Jack a waffle covered in powdered sugar for dinner, I’m not feeling like buying him any candy to snack on as we kill time. Don’t think I passed up a glass of wine, though.
For an hour (an HOUR), we sit and wait until they let us into the theater.
No words to describe the whining.
But we finally get to enter the theater, and walking into the theater? Is awesome. It is, actually, exactly what I had expected and hoped for. Jack is in awe of the stage, the upper level of seats, the bigness of it all. I can tell he’s starting to get excited as we walk him down to the orchestra pit and peer in at the musicians, warming up below us (did I ever mention that I used to play trombone? I rocked it in 7th grade Intermediate Band, HOLLA).
We still have to wait for twenty minutes or so, but eventually the lights dim and the show starts.
And for the next hour and fifteen minutes, Jack sits, rapt with attention, as the story unfolds (mostly like the movie, but with an additional story line here and there). Intermission comes, and Jack…cries. Loudly.
I explain that they are just taking a break, that it will be back in a few minutes, and so we begin counting down the minutes, again.
During the second half of the show, Jack gets a random allergy attack that has his sniffing like NOBODY’S BUSINESS. I’m annoyed by, the people in front of us are annoyed by it (and keep turning around to look at him, like that will make it stop), and I’m pretty sure Jack is annoyed by it. Especially as his sniffing is so loud that he can’t even hear what is happening on stage (don’t you hate it when allergies attack during the quietest and most serious part of a musical you payed bookoo bucks to see?).
The play ends, and Jack is sad again. And he’s hungry, and does the whine/cry thing for the entire forty minutes we sit outside waiting for the tram to take us to the car (a prepared mother would have a snack, and I kind of did – but it was in the car. Of course).
Finally. FINALLY. We make it to the car and are buckled in and ready to leave, a package of peanut butter crackers in Jack’s hands as he slowly starts to cheer up and return to us.
We’re all tired, and ready to be home.
“Well…” I say to Charles. “That’s not really how I expected tonight to go. But it was still fun. Right?”
He assures me it was fun, despite a cranky kid and ill-fitting jeans and Texas heat and greasy pizza.
I struggle with keeping my expectations in check. I should know better.
When you’re dealing with kids – especially a four-year-old – you’ve got to live in the moment and hope for the best, but you can’t expect it. You can only expect that what you expect to happen, probably won’t.
When it was all said and done, we had a great time. Jack is still talking about the Lion King, and daily. He loved it. Despite the absence of Macaroni & Cheese, the long waits, the hunger-grumpies after the show…he loved it. In fact, he doesn’t talk about any of the things that went “wrong.” He only talks about the awesome parts.
Maybe instead of setting ridiculous expectations for myself, and worse, my family members, I should spend more time acting like a kid – and focusing on the awesome.
Sometimes, I guess it takes a whiny four-year-old to put things into perspective.