My 10-year-old daughter and I spent the day at the Grand Canyon, her first trip there and my first time since I was her age. I was a little disappointed when I went as a child, because I expected it to look like it did in all the professional photographs I’d seen, the colors more vibrant and rich than midday summer natural lighting ever produces.
This morning, my expectations were much lower, and I was careful not to build up any for Tessie. Consequently, both of us thought the canyon more impressive than we had expected.
If my 50 years on this earth have taught me anything, it’s that unrealistic expectations are the biggest enemy of human happiness. Expect anything – from any person or any experience – and you’re likely to be disappointed. Once in a while people or things meet or even exceed your expectations, but usually they don’t. Expect nothing, and every pleasure, no matter how small, is a gift for which you can be grateful.
Today’s trip to the Grand Canyon was such a gift. I was fully prepared for my daughter to complain that it was too hot (she did) or that the canyon wasn’t that impressive (she didn’t). We had a wonderful time, as wonderful as I could have hoped for, but if I’d expected it, I don’t think it would have made me as grateful and happy as it did.
When you have four children, spending time with just one child is a gift even when you’re not at one of the natural wonders of the world. I’ve taken road trips with my kids, and gone on trips with just one of my daughters at a time, but this is the first time I’ve taken just on one child on an actual road trip. It’s different. Very different. No one yells. No one says, “She hit me” or “It’s my turn to sit in the front” or “She called me a %!^&$.”
It also means I have to be in the pool all the time she’s in the pool instead of sitting poolside reading or texting while the girls play in the pool together. But now that I don’t color my hair anymore, I don’t mind, and all the swimming helps work off the road trip food.
Speaking of road trip food…
Bacon cheese fries at the Coal Street Pub in Gallup. Hers, not mine. The road trip was only a few hours old, and I was still trying to eat like a normal person (as opposed to a person on a road trip) and had green chile stew. We only ate there because Jerry’s Café, whose stuffed sopaipillas both of us had been dreaming of all week, turned out to be closed on Sundays. What made us unhappy with the meal wasn’t the food we had, but the food we didn’t have – or, more accurately, the food we’d expected to have. So, for the rest of the road trip, I will try to expect nothing, so that I can be grateful for everything.