My mother has a saying that she’s been sharing with me at opportune moments for as long as I can remember: “Expectation is the mother of disappointment.” I have never liked this statement, mostly because I’ve always believed that setting no expectation invites laziness and apathy, two things I’m not well known for. I prefer to have expectations and then be cautiously optimistic that others and I will rise to meet them. Sometimes my hopeful wishes are fulfilled and, true to my mom’s saying, sometimes my expectations of greatness leave me quite disappointed.
Last Saturday night before bed, we decided to depart for an early morning ride to the mountains to view the fall colors. We’d heard the aspen trees up near Kenosha Pass were turning, so we planned to get out of the house by 7:15, make the obligatory stop at Starbucks, and head up Highway 285 early enough for my husband to be able to take some photos with the morning sun illuminating the quaking, golden leaves. It sounded like an easy enough plan.
Sunday morning, the alarm chimes at 6:45 and, being one of those annoying “morning people,” I pop out of bed and head for the shower while the rest of the family sleeps just a bit longer. At 7, we begin preparations for our excursion. All travel with children requires far more planning than ever was necessary before children; the sheer magnitude of supplies necessary to embark on even a four hour road trip is staggering. We start rounding up DVDs and Nintendo DS systems. I find my iPod, and hubby gathers all his camera equipment. Then, we debate what to do with the dogs; we normally leave them at home but we’ve been trying to convince Ruby, our darling Border Collie, that she actually enjoys car rides, so we decide to bring her too. By the time we head out the door with entertainment, jackets, headphones, shoes, cameras, wallets, keys, iPhones, one live puppy, and several stuffed animals, it is 7:45. Not stellar, but still respectable enough given our track record for late starts.
As we pull out of the driveway, hubby notices we’ll need to stop for gas. We head to the Starbucks drive-thru and then over to the gas station. While we’re at the Conoco, hubby decides he and the kids can use some food so we make another unscheduled stop at McDonalds. Back on the highway again at 8:10, hubby is starting to be a bit concerned about his prospects for good lighting. At the same time, Luke points out that while the adults are busy swilling Starbucks we’ve neglected to get drinks for him or Joe. Dang. We knew we were missing something. We pull back off the highway and proceed to 7-11 to remedy that issue. Ten minutes later we’re finally beginning our climb up Highway 285, and we realize that we’ve made four stops in 35 minutes and we’ve only advanced approximately 10 miles.
Still, we continue on, optimistic that we’re now finally on the right track. I laughingly joke to hubby about how long it’s going to take before someone needs to stop for a potty break. He rolls his eyes and we keep going. For a few minutes, we really are enjoying the drive, laughing about the chaos of doing even small things these days. I turn back and admire the boys, who are quietly watching a movie with their headphones on. I make a mental note that the puppy is drooling all over the back seat, but decide that it’s still a great day.
We’re not even to Conifer yet when Luke announces he needs a restroom. Ding. Ding. Ding. We have a winner! We’ll just pull over and you can pee in the woods, we tell him, hoping to save some time. This, I have realized, is the beauty of having boys instead of girls: I get to take advantage of the whole peeing-standing-up thing vicariously through them with quick stops on the side of highways and interstates. (And, don’t ask my boys how many times I’ve asked them to fill up empty water bottles while we’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-70 after a day in the mountains and I refuse to get out of the line of traffic to find them a restroom.)
Then, the plan for our Sunday morning of leaf peeping begins to implode.
“I don’t have to PEE.” Luke replies.
Ugh. Of course not. We tell him to hold on and we’ll find the next gas station. The next gas station is in Pine Junction, and it is actually a small, log-cabin type convenience store that also sells fishing licenses. Apparently, their idea of a public restroom is a porta-potty out in the parking lot.
Hubby tries to coax Luke into the outdoor toilet, but Luke is now and has always been fearful of pit toilets. I can’t say I blame him. A few of them have frightened me too. While hubby is working on Luke, I attempt some damage control and try to get our drooling dog out of the backseat and into the cargo area of the SUV. I open the back gate and she flies into the cargo area like a champ. Just as I am appreciating her agility and praising her for her good listening skills, I realize she has bounded right over the back of the seat and is once again drooling on the leather in between the boys’ car seats. So much for that brilliant plan.
I walk over to check on Luke and realize it’s a no go. He has decided he will wait until we get home. It is now nearly 10. Hubby sadly announces that since we are still roughly an hour away from Kenosha Pass and the sun is already too high for the kind of photos he was hoping for, he thinks we should just cut our losses and pack it in. My husband is an incredibly good sport. It’s one of the things I’ve always admired about him. He takes everything in stride while I’m bashing my head against walls. He’s smart enough to know when enough is enough, and after 16 years together I am smart enough to know that when he says it’s enough he’s probably right.
We tell the boys we’re heading home, start a new film for the descent back to Denver, and as we coast down 285 we hear the puppy offer up her telltale retching sound and then we smell the dog food. Joe squeals in disgust and curls up in a ball to avoid the mess. Luke starts gagging at the smell and opens his window. I turn around and see the rubber mats on the floor covered in dog puke. It’s one of those moments when you realize you have a choice: you can either laugh or you can pitch a fit. We choose to laugh. The day has been filled with so many signs that we were not meant to see the leaves. We talk about what we’d expected for our day, and I tell hubby about my mom’s saying.
“Well, what if you don’t have any big expectations and you’re still disappointed?” he asks, referring to our simple plan for a casual drive to look at turning aspen leaves.
I had no answer for him then but it’s starting to make sense to me now. Maybe disappointment merely exists as a litmus test, so we know what we’re made of? Although we missed our one chance this year to enjoy the fall colors before an early snow took them away from us, I am not disappointed. The day may not have gone according to my usual lofty expectations, but I’m finally learning to stop bashing my head against the wall of disappointment. Expectation may well be the mother of disappointment, but now I counter with my own cliche: “Attitude is everything.” I’m still going to have my hopeful expectations and, occasionally, my expectations may lead to disappointment; but, experience has taught me that I can handle it.