So tonight, I’m at Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure chaperoning several thousand 8th graders as they enjoy themselves in their 8th grade Gradventure. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. I imagined an absolute mad house of teenagers with a few hundred chaperones pulling their hair out. And then when Alexys informed me that the group I was charged with was made up of four teenagers that didn’t want to be grouped together……..well, yeah. You can probably imagine the nightmare that was playing out in my head. To my surprise (and relief), it’s been nothing like that.

We arrived at Universal Studios around 4:30. Half an hour later than expected (not a bad thing, just different). After going through security, we started discussing which rides the kids wanted to go on first. At this point, it’s an open park and the kids are required to stay with their chaperone (and they hated that). I did my best to remain as invisible as possible. Allowing them to make their own decisions as to what we did next. To their credit, they all got along quite well (for not wanting to be grouped together). We rode a few rides, got some ice cream, and then headed over to the stage area to wait for the coveted hour (7pm) to arrive when they could bid farewell to their awesome chaperone, and spend the rest of the evening wandering around the two parks by themselves. And sure enough, when the clock struck 7, it was like cock roaches when someone turns the lights on. I gave them their final instructions (next meeting time and place…..don’t be late…….be early instead), and they were off. And I was left alone. And all of a sudden, a song started playing through my head………..”🎼 All, buuuy myyyy seeelf, 🎶 Sigh. Time to hit the Chaperone lounge. Get a water, a snack, and chill out in the air conditioning before venturing back out to keep an eye on things and be visible in case one of the kids needed something. As I wander throughout the parks, I’m thinking about how different the night could have turned out, had I let my original expectations dictate my attitude. And being glad I didn’t.
So the time has come for the first check in. So, at 9 o’clock I sent a group text reminding everyone of the 9:30 time hack. And by 9:15, all four of my charges have checked in, and probably didn’t need the reminder text. They’ve been having a great time, and are off to continue their evening of fun and freedom, leaving me once again with my thoughts. Which is why I’m currently typing.
So I’m thinking about my original expectations about the evening. And as I sit here trying to put my thoughts together, I look up and see that I’m sitting in front of a huge green ham. I’m sure there’s a green egg somewhere, but at the moment I don’t see it. And I’m thinking about how that story relates (in part) to where my thoughts are wandering. I’m thinking about how neat this adventure has been. The first two hours went NOTHING like I had expected. Rather than attitudes and grumbling, we had a great time! I had no clue what to think as I waited for them to check in at 9:30. But I promise that I was NOT expecting them all to check in by 9:15. After check in, Alexys spent a little time hanging out with me…..even though she still had a friend with her. And she didn’t appear to be embarrassed that she was sitting with her Dad. In fact, it was almost as if she enjoyed it (I know, enjoy it while it lasts. It won’t be long til she wants nothing to do with me). And then I smiled as she asked if I could hold their bags while they went on a couple of rides (aaaaahhhhh, the alterior motive presents itself). I said okay and watched as they skipped away to find a ride.
So, expectations is the thought of the night. And how they impact the way we think and act on a regular basis. I wonder how often we allow an expectation to ruin what would otherwise have been a fun evening/event/opportunity? Or maybe in a relationship? Do we allow an expectation to start or prolong an argument? Naturally, I think this has happened to all of us. And if we take a minute to think about it, identify a situation where we allowed an expectation to negatively impact what we are doing. And I’m sure we could also justify our own actions or reactions based on those expectations. But what if we took a moment to step outside of ourselves, and think about whether or not the failure to meet the afformentioned expectation was really a bad or wrong thing. Or was it just different from our expectation? Maybe it didn’t meet the expectation, but was that really a bad thing? Worth causing a problem or argument? Let’s take tonight as an example……..
I’m a pretty positive person. I like to try to make the best of things. But I’m also human. I’ve also been accused of being a bit of a Drill Sgt with my kids, and those that I’m put in charge of (for field trips or outings). So when Alexys talked me into chaperoning for this particular adventure, my initial thought went to having a list of rules and instructions that the kids would have to memorize and recite back to me before leaving for the park. Buddy system for bathroom breaks. No more than 5 feet away from me at all times. Don’t listen? “Front leaning rest buddy! And give me 20!”. Yup. Totally prepared for this. Then Alexys says “Dad, you know we aren’t going to stay with you the whole time, right?”. Really?! No problem. We’re not going. Problem solved (sort of). After calming her down, I settled on a compromise and began ordering GPS tags off of Amazon so that I could know their location in the park at all times. Get too close to an exit? I’m on your heals dragging you back in. Then I go to the chaperone meeting and find out that the groups are anywhere from 2 – 8 kids per chaperone. WHAT?! How stupid is that? Why would you give one chaperon 2 kids and another 8? That makes no sense at all!! Even it out!! So now I’m wondering how many I’m going to have. And why didn’t they have that information for the meeting? Yes, I know it was a strategic move. Because all the parents assigned 8 would quit. So I go home and ask Alexys how many are in our group. “I don’t know Dad. I should find out tomorrow”. So naturally, when “tomorrow” comes, I ask. And find out that I have four total (including Alexys). But theres a kicker. None of the kids “like each other” and don’t want to be in the same group together. Yeah. This just keeps getting better and better (how long do I have to do this?). Okay, so I’m back in Drill Sgt mode. Preparing my “suck it up and drive on speach”, ready to present prior to boarding the buss. “Okay, I know you all don’t like each other. And none of you want to be together. And I certainly don’t want to be with a bunch of whiners either. But this is the hand we were dealt. So we all need to deal with it”. Yeah, you can imagine how that would have gone over. And the tone it would have set for the rest of the evening. Instead, I just let the evening play out, and see where it goes. And as I mentioned before, I’ve been pleasently surprised. But it could have been a lot different.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that expectations are a bad thing. I think they are really good things actually. They can also motivate someone to action. And that can be a GREAT thing. For example…….prior to allowing the kids to run free, I let them know what my expectations for check in at 9:30 was. I expected to have them all check in as close to 9:30 as possible. The head chaperone expected me to have a report back to her by 9:50. But they also knew the consequences for their decisions. Check in early, and your off to spend the rest of the night with their friends. Check in late, and they’ll be spending some time with me until they can convince me that I can trust them to make the next check in. Don’t check in at all? I have your picture. The entire security staff will be looking for you. And we will find you. And then you get to be my special friend for the rest of the night. Of course, I’m confident that knowing my expectations is why they all had checked in by 9:15. 😉
Okay, so what’s my point? I guess my point is that if we can take a step back and evaluate our situation, and our expectations, before we initiate action, then maybe (just maybe) things turn out better than we expected. Maybe we don’t get upset so easy. Maybe we get a pleasent surprise. Or maybe you sit here and think “hmmmm, I expected something more and just waisted how many minutes of my life reading the ramblings of some guy that thinks too much”. And if that’s what you’re thinking, no worries. Just remember that while you waisted a couple minutes of you life to read it, it took me about 2 hours to write. And with that, I’m expecting my kids to check in soon. So I’m going to head to the next meeting location.

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