My brother has two children—a boy, Sam, and a girl, Caroline. They’re both still young. Something happened a couple of years ago when they were 5 and 2. It was Christmas, and we had gotten the family a gift. We also got something small for each of the children so they’d have something to open.

As a reader, I love giving books to children. I had chosen an Olivia book for Caroline. I love Olivia books. In case you’re not familiar with Olivia. She’s a very imaginative girl pig. She has great confidence and spunk. I had given Caroline another Olivia book, and she had enjoyed it. I knew she’d like the new one. I had chosen a Diego book for Sam. I was sure he’d like the story, and it came with a telescope. Diego is a cousin (I think) to Dora the Explorer—both favorites in my brother’s house.

Sounds like a recipe for success. Right? Wrong. You see, Sam opened his gift first. He loved it, and started playing with the telescope right away. That’s when Caroline started ripping into her paper shouting, “Dora! Dora!” You see, when she saw Sam’s Diego book she naturally assumed she was getting a Dora book. She was nearly inconsolable when she saw Olivia instead.

There was nothing wrong with what I’d chosen for Caroline. She eventually came to love the Olivia book. What had happened was that her expectations weren’t met. Often we get upset because what we get doesn’t meet our expectations. It doesn’t really matter if what we get is better or worse than what we expected. There is an initial disappointment.

I heard a radio broadcast recently in which someone said that they thought unmet expectations were the worst problem faced by most marriages. I think that’s true. If I expect my husband to bring me roses, but he shows up with something else, I’m disappointed. No matter how much I like the gift, my expectations weren’t met.

We have to be very careful of our expectations, especially if we don’t make those expectations known.


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