Oh goody – it’s half term! My children have been counting down the days for a couple of weeks. Lovely long lie-ins, time playing with toys, quality family time… And then the realisation kicks in. Nine days, just me and the kids. We have all been looking forward to it. How can I make it great for them, and also great for me?
Someone once said to me, “I don’t look forward to anything, and then I am not disappointed if it doesn’t work out.” It struck me at the time as being a very sad thing to say, but now I am not so sure.
I think there are times when we all put pressure on ourselves. I have blogged before about managing expectations, and this falls into the same sort of category. I know that I have looked forward to spending time with my children in the school holidays, only for World War 3 to break out in our house, and the whole time has been spent with either them fighting with each other or ganging up and fighting against me.
It’s like Christmas, or a family holiday. A lot of us put pressure on ourselves to enjoy these times – they are precious, after all, and most people don’t often get to spend time as a family unit. We think we need to enjoy it! If we plan, are organised, and make sure everyone will be in the same place at the same time, we will relish in it. We will… won’t we?
I am sure I am not alone in finding that it is not always such a fantastic time as I think it should be. One of the reasons that these times are stressful is because of the fact that we don’t spend time as a family unit very often, and even the little people in our families have priorities that don’t quite match up to ours. We think they will enjoy the activities we have planned for them, and that they will be at the very least polite to Auntie Mabel.
And then our dreams of a happy family time come crashing down around us because we have not anticipated how they will react to a situation. We wanted them to be happy and enjoy themselves, but on our terms.
I remember a family holiday a couple of summers ago when it wasn’t quite as we expected. I was feeling smug that we could drive the short distance to the nearest seaside town and not have the awful journeys that we heard about from some of our friends. And August – the weather will be fabulous, won’t it?
Ah, well, the weather was so bad the night before we left home, our roof was leaking and we had to leave a complicated system of buckets to make sure the carpets didn’t get soaked. We were experiencing the tail-end of a hurricane that August. We had to buy additional warm-weather clothing while we were there, and only spent a couple of hours on the beach the whole time.
Yes, we had a good time, but not as good as I had been anticipating. After the challenging year we had had as a family, we felt we deserved this holiday and that we would come back renewed and refreshed. Oh dear.
How can we protect ourselves from disappointment? Is it worth not looking forward to things, so that we will be pleasantly surprised if they make us happy?
I think the anticipation is part of the whole happiness. If we choose not to enjoy thinking about the event before it happens, we miss out on part of it. Perhaps it is more about keeping a lid on things – being realistic. No matter how much money we spend, it may not be the holiday of our dreams. No matter how many pleasant activities we prepare for our children, they may not enjoy them.
And that’s okay. Life is full of peaks and troughs, and we have to experience the lows to be able to enjoy the highs. We just need to prepare ourselves mentally that the lows may be coming when we least expect them. And I will brace myself accordingly for this coming week!
Have you had a time when you were expecting something to be great, only to find it wasn’t?
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