Parenting Expectations vs. Reality

As parents, I think we are all guilty of romanticizing certain experiences a-la-Clark-Griswold in Christmas Vacation, and, well, every movie Clark Griswold has been in. Who remembers this exchange?

Ellen: “It’s just that I know how you build things up in your mind, Sparky. You set standards that no family event can ever live up to.”
Clark: “When have I ever done that?”
Ellen: “Parties. Weddings. Anniversaries.”
Clark: “Good night, honey.”
Ellen: “Funerals. Holidays.”
Clark: “Oh, great.”
Ellen: “Vacations. Graduations.”

You know what I’m talking about — when you think an experience is going to be SO MUCH FUN with your kids and then it kind of turns out to be SO MUCH HELL. Many “expectation vs. reality” memes have been created on this very topic. I am no stranger to this common parenting pitfall, and here are a few examples of things that, although I wouldn’t necessarily say were a mistake, were not all I expected them to be:

  • A full itinerary for family vacation. Who would’ve known that just like our lives, vacations can be over-planned? We scheduled nearly every minute of every day of our first major vacation with kids, and let me tell you, it was more stressful than fun. The best day of the whole trip was the unplanned stop at the beach where we played in the water and collected seashells.
  • Baby-wearing. It grew on me, but it was much more involved than I originally thought. AND WHO ELSE PANICKED THE BABY WAS GOING TO FALL OUT?
  • Disney Land. I’m not saying it’s a bad place altogether, but it was not the complete fireworks-glinting-in-my-child’s-eye experience that I dreamed it would be. Instead, we spent much of our time in lines, trying to make sure kids weren’t lost in crowds, and consuming snacks that cost $10 each.
  • Lots of Christmas gifts (and really, holidays in general). Buying presents for your kids is so much fun. You wrap them with care, imagining the pure joy he or she will feel upon opening each one…and, instead, you’re dismayed when he or she rips through each one and casts it aside like last week’s dirty underwear.  (Other holidays are no exception, as Easter egg dying sometimes becomes a full-on catastrophe, Fourth of July sometimes has you chasing a toddler away from punks and sparklers all night, etc.).
  • Siblings.  Amiright?  Apparently, it’s not all brothers-holding-hands and brother-reading-little sister-a-book. It’s sometimes brother-bites-brother-while-simultaneously-pulling-sister’s hair.
  • Working from home. Is that an oxymoron? Huge shout-out to the moms that do this all the time with kids home, because I just can’t.
  • Family pictures. We may look happy in the pictures, but you better believe some threats were muttered under breaths between takes.

Courtesy of Wright Focus Photography

Of course, all of these experience had their shiny moments — but expectation certainly did not always align with reality. I do my best to bear this in mind when I plan a new activity or look forward to some outing with my kids, and that helps me keep my expectations in check — which, in turn, makes the whole experience more enjoyable.

What are your parenting “expectation vs. reality” moments?


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