Learning to manage expectations

“We never get to do anything fun” was a comment one of my children made recently. Believe me, I know. My idea of fun during chemo was simply getting to attend a child’s wrestling match or gymnastics competition. I had little energy for much else, and there were days I was so eager to get into my pajamas and robe that I watched the clock — willing it to be time for bed. The kids were so busy with homework and activities that they didn’t have much time for fun anyway.

But I also didn’t want to miss anything they were doing. I had been given a warning that time may not be on my side, and not getting to take fun trips or stay up late watching movies or even go out to eat was an unfortunate consequence of my situation. I realized I could either fuss about it all the time or I could learn to accept this season and manage my expectations. We must all learn to appreciate the simplest of moments. One day at a time.

I could not allow myself to be frustrated by what others were doing to make their children’s lives amazing. Ski trips and concerts and shows and parties for the holidays were theirs, not mine. I had to be thankful for the blessings each day could bring and redefine “fun” in the simple things. I had never been good at managing my disappointment, so fighting cancer with three kids still at home was hard to accept. Could I convince my children to cherish these moments without scaring them? How could I explain that we might not have as much time as we thought? Again, I had to be careful to not breed fear while encouraging appreciation for the small things. Sometimes I broke down and cried and in those moments; perhaps I burdened the children with some of that weight. It was hard to hide it all the time — the sadness, the potential of loss.

Luckily, my children found other ways to enjoy life without me for this “season,” and I was thankful. The slower life to which I had become accustomed was mine, not theirs. I learned to knit while the boys learned to wrestle and their sister mastered her back handspring on the beam. There was joy to be had, and I could happily sit and watch with other parents who, just like I did, reveled in their children’s accomplishments and disappointments. We continued to learn how to manage both. One moment at a time.