The Lost Art of Anticipation

With three little kids, my world is an endless parade of highly anticipated events–birthdays, playdates, school concerts, fifteen minutes from now when I promised they could watch a show. One of my kids spends her days in the throes of agony or ecstasy depending on how long it is until she gets to do whatever is next. When nothing is on the queue, she lies in wait as near to the neighbor’s house as I’ll let her. Occasionally, she jumps and waves her arms in front of their windows. More than once I’ve seen the neighbor mom sneak her kids out the back door and into the van. I’m pretty sure she’s trying to avoid an encounter with my offspring. I don’t blame her.

The higher my tiny extrovert flies, the more the rest of us suffer. Sometimes I wish we lived in the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder. We could hole up in the woods in a state of semi-permanent isolation where we knew for a fact that nothing was going to happen, aside from butter churning and meat processing. I could handle one fun event per season.

Maybe I’m getting a little too Ron Swanson, but I think our lives are too exciting. Mine is. The event/anticipation cycle is too rapid cycling, and not just for kids. We live in a culture of instant everything–Food, TV, Amazon Prime. Going from one dopamine hit to the next, we take pictures without ever printing them off for future enjoyment–instant gratification with no long term benefit. We don’t even have to wait for mail anymore. Postal employees basically only deliver fliers from Papa Johns that go straight to recycling. It’s a weird eddy of swirling junk mail that we barely notice because it only involves Papa Johns and some other stuff I recycle. I wonder how many resources go into producing all of that junk mail, which is sad considering that Papa John’s is objectively the worst pizza chain. But, I digress. At least the postman has a job.

Back to my actual topic–anticipation (see how I’m making you wait for it). Without waiting, we don’t get the sweet slow burn of true anticipation. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the most crucial ingredient in anticipation is suffering. True anticipation has to be the perfect mix of pain and pleasure: pleasure because you imagine what’s coming and pain because you have to wait for it. Of course, there can be too much suffering. That’s when the anticipation sours into something closer to dread. Christmas anyone?

So maybe I’m a crotchety old stick in the mud. Clearly I am. No one fun would have written this post, but I think we could do with some more suffering–road trips where Wall Drug is the only place to stop for three hundred miles and the coffee advertised on the billboards isn’t even drinkable. Road trips across the West are my most highly anticipated event every year because they provide my family with a relief from anticipation. Driving across three states to go fishing with some crotchety grandparents and make a few Walmart runs to get hot dogs is the perfect antidote to our daily lives.

On that note, I’m writing a YA. I signed a contract just recently and it’s coming out next summer! I’ll try to tone down the Ron Swanson for the teens.


15 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Anticipation”

  1. Here, here. Or is it hear, hear? Instead of Googling, I will make this a topic of conversation at dinner tonight with our kids. We can discuss and not need the answer right away. And I’ll look forward to it.

    Congratulations on your new deal!


  2. Yes, yes, yes! A lot of activities got canceled over the weekend because of the snow (not that we got a lot in Pittsburgh, but still). We spent Saturday lazing around the house, wood fire roaring, alternately reading and watching movies. I don’t think I got out of my sweats. I love it.

    My husband and son hated it. “So boring,” they said. Me, I was jazzed that the hamster wheel slowed down for a day. Mother Nature is clearly on my side of this argument.

    Congrats on the new book deal!


  3. I’m so jealous of your snow day, Mary!!! I would love a long boring day! I was snowed in at my parents’ cabin for a week once and I keep hoping it’ll happen again.

    Jenny, thanks so much for the congrats! Here’s to a good dinner convo. (I don’t know which “here” it is either!)


  4. I love everything about this post — Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ron Swanson, Wall Drug (ohmygoshYES, Wall Drug!), and a new YA contract. Superb! But, as a print shop owner, I do take exception to the phrase “junk mail.” Around here we call it “income.” ;D


  5. “Rapid cycling”…”instant gratification with no long term benefit”… wow. You nailed it.

    Road trips are among my favorite things. Electronics are at a minimum (at least while in the car) and people actually share things.

    Congratulations on your contract! Well done!


  6. Oh, yes! Three kids and the wild and crazy daze (oops, days, I meant). So true, the suffering of anticipation. Congrats on the contract!


  7. I have three kids. My biggest luxury is just sitting down to eat in peace. I find I’m in a constant state of tension. But this phase is fleeting and that makes me sad too.

    Congrats on your YA book!!


  8. A HUGE congrats on the YA book, Sam! Can’t wait to hear more about it!

    I love this post because it’s so true! And Ron Swanson is my favorite character from Parks&Rec–we could all use a little more Ron Swanson in our lives 😉


  9. You’re right about everything. Why do we take so many pictures and not do anything with them? To confirm that the things we were anticipating actually happened? I’m definitely anticipating the pub date of your YA!


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