The Anticipation of Parenting


anticipationOur daughter is a planner. She likes occasions. In her five years of life, she’s planned an untold number of events – real and imagined – to celebrate.

The pandemic has only enhanced her planning. She’s refused to be restricted by the limits of our home’s walls, winter weather, or bad moods.

We’ve had birthday parties for stuffed animals, half-birthday parties, a father-daughter dinner dance, a garage party, many tea parties, and a celebration for the night her toddler brother would move into her bedroom. That’s not counting the major holidays.

But the thing she loves more than any actual event is the planning of it. The anticipation of it. The imagining of its possible splendor and perfection.

Inevitably, the event itself ends in tears because nothing could possibly live up to such expectations. But the day after, she’s planning something new, chasing that same taste of glory.

It occurs to me that anticipation is much the state of parenting.  

I anticipate the day he sleeps through the night. I look forward to her eating solids. It’ll be so nice when he can keep up with the older two. Oh, I can’t wait for the first day of school. 

There’s this constant looking ahead, looking forward to the next step. 

I used to think it was because once we hit that milestone, it would be easier somehow. Now I know that’s just complete nonsense.

The anticipation has hit new heights these days.

I anticipate celebrating the delayed weddings of beloved friends and family. I look forward to meeting the new babies of our family born during the pandemic. There are no words to describe how much I want to hug my parents for the first time in over a year. 

The anticipation is delicious, and the closer we get to making it reality, the more optimistic I feel. 

However, I worry that all the looking ahead can be too much wishing away of the now. I’ve never been very good at living in the moment, at committing to the present. It’s always been more fun to think about what comes next.

One day I’ll crave all this forced together time with our children, and our schedules will be eaten up by basketball practice, jobs, homework, friends, and angsty music listening. 

That will all be lovely and meaningful in its own way, but perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to anticipate the end of what we have.  

We need anticipation. We need the promise it offers. The preparation for what is to come is comforting, exciting, and laden with hope.

But we also need the now, the celebrations of minutiae and appreciation of the mundane. Even if it might not be everything we want or look forward to. 

As we plan her stuffed animal Moonlight’s upcoming birthday, I will not limit our daughter’s plan for decorations or cuisine. However, I might suggest that she enjoy the nightly snuggles she gets with the inanimate owl long before we celebrate its birth.  

Those quiet moments are the ones that never disappoint.


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