Anticipation Hangover

Well, the big day came and went, and I find myself in a pretty intense anticipation hangover.

I sometimes don’t realize how much I’m relying on the anticipation of a big event to get me through the days. December was very much about Christmas and preparing for its arrival. And even though I didn’t have grand expectations for the actual day (which was quite nice, all things considered), I guess I was really enjoying the anticipation, and even the preparation, leading up to it. Now that there is nothing fun to look forward to (at least not for the next couple of months), I’m reminded of my real life, and of what the day to day actually consists.

To be honest, I’m not super enthused.

I had a similar realization on the first day of my break, when I went down to the enrollment office to figure out what exactly my option are for our son next year. There is a part of me that is considerably frustrated with his fall birthday, and the fact that I will probably have to pay an extra $20K for a fourth year of preschool/daycare, because of his birthday not meeting the Kindergarten cut off. My daughter turned five in June and I only needed three years of care after she turned two. My son will be two months away from turning six when he starts Kindergarten, which means I have an extra year of care to arrange for him.

In the grand scheme of things, $20K is not an insane amount of money. It’s totally manageable, and I’m thankful we have the option of keeping him where he is if the public school options don’t work out (and there is a VERY good chance they won’t). So I was surprised by how frustrated I was when the answers to my questions revealed how few options we have for next year, and how low are chances are of something working out.

I found myself whining to my husband, as I tried to make him (and me!) understand why I was so upset: If he stays at (his preschool) everything next year will be exactly the same. My job! Their schools! Nothing will have changed! I need something to change!

And that’s when I recognize how unsatisfied I am with so many aspects of my life right now.

The fact that I still won’t have a room next year, let alone a new job. The fact that I’ll have to ask for first period prep, and commute between campuses during that tight, 15 minute window. The fact that my son mostly likely won’t be at my daughter’s school, which means they’ll only have two–or maybe even only one!–year together at the same place. The fact I will still be struggling with the same problems, not making improvements in the same areas of my life. It all feels like too much.

And yet, I had a sense this year, that their littleness is fading in very real and noticeable ways. Things do change–they change–and I see it when they can do something that before they couldn’t do, when they can manage something that before they couldn’t manage, when they say something that makes them sound like a teenager, instead of repeating a now rarely-heard vestige of some sweet toddlerism they used to employ.

On Christmas Eve, when I packed away our Elf on a Shelf, I realized this was certainly the last year my daughter would believe. We had so much fun finding her every morning, and using the keys she held to open the boxes with the little surprises. I think I enjoyed it even more than they did. And next year she’ll be 8.5 and he’ll be 5… And there will be almost nothing left of the little loves they used to be.

When my son wakes up early we snuggle together in his bed until it’s wake up time, and I cherish those moments instead of resenting the missed sleep. I am acutely aware of how rare those moments will be, of how precious they are now.

So why, if I recognize how fast they are growing, and how fast their lives are changing, am I so frustrated that next year things will stay the same? It doesn’t make any sense.

All I know is that right now I am an emotional mess. I don’t know what is going on, so I’m trying to patient with myself, to be understanding, even though I don’t understand, to show myself some compassion and remind myself that it’s okay to not know why I feel all these conflicting emotions.

And there are things to look forward to this spring. There are big events to anticipate. And even if next year looks very much the same, it can be different.  can make it different. It’s all in my perspective.


  1. Change and no change all at the same time. It is wearing.
    Re your son and kindergarten… I have a granddaughter whose birthday is 5 days before the cut off. She was/is the youngest child in her classroom by 4 months. The eldest child’s birthday is 7 days after the cut off. She is constantly compared by the teachers against children who are a year older than she is…… makes for lots of pressure on her and her parents. She is not in kindergarten any more but clearly during grades 1-3 she is on an uphill challenge due to age even while being socially ready, smart, hard working at learning, doing grade level work … because the children a year older are generally ahead of grade level. There are trade offs in everything.
    You can see this new year as a year of no change, or a year where you take advantage of no new pressures and continue with the PTO for your daughter’s school which might be impossible if you had a new job this year or for the new school year. You know the perimeters of the problems you face, which helps. You know your best solution/options/what works and doesn’t.
    This is the time to do the exercise of what if: What if your husband was in the wrong place at the wrong time and … was no longer? What if it were you? What if his job evaporated? What if yours did? What if he got a triple his income offer (HUGE so he might consider leaving his adored city) and you two moved to Fresno/Carmel or Portland? Today and tomorrow are the days to do these exercises and to find both the joys of your current problems and to consider the restructuring of lives that would be needed and which ones you might institute anyway while in a safer non-emergency mode of not-changing-chaos.
    Children do grow. It is bitter-sweet. On a day-to-day basis the growth is invisible but looking back 3-6 months it is huge. This is preparation for when they leave and order stays in place at home, the quiet descends and becomes too intense, you face restructuring your whole live again with their absence being for months or years at a time. And you want to celebrate the success in their spreading their wings and setting their course without you at the helm or even holding a safety net, but you also miss them and being an integral part of their life. A year without BIG changes in externals will help you when you face the big ones ~ which will happen.
    PS: You may still find a new job. Remember your concerns last spring when you looked at those implications and they were NOT all positive. Hang in!!!!!!! I have so much faith in you.

  2. I used to think that I have to be able to be completely happy in my everyday life even when there’s nothing big to anticipate, but I’ve changed my mind. While it’s very important to have an enjoyable everyday life, having some highlights at reasonable intervals really helps me to be happy.
    Sorry about the day care situation. The cost is mind-boggling to me. From my perspective it seems unfair that parents get so little support from society in raising their kids (I know it’s a complex issue, and US is different from Europe in many other ways too, but still).

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