If you are a mother, have a mother, or know a mother, you know that mothers wear a lot of hats. We are juggling many roles, many responsibilities, and managing many a thought and expectation simultaneously. As a case in point, I submit to you that recently, I can add the role of manic cage fight referee to my ever-expanding list of roles.

For how much my children love each other and cease to function when the other is away, there are moments in time when their mini-brawls have had me questioning the bond of brotherly love. Just last week, my 6-year-old was coloring a picture and my 2-year-old came up behind her and whacked her in the head with a pink plastic golf club to get her attention. Taken aback and severely inconvenienced, my daughter answered back with a swift push, and my 2-year-old son returned the favor by aggressively death-grabbing a fistful of her brunette locks. Loud, barbaric screaming ensued. And there I was, oddly enough wearing a black and white striped shirt, suddenly ushered into the role of cage fight referee.

It’s funny, when I held my babies for the first time swaddled (straightjacketed) safely in my arms, I never expected my future would entail breaking up toddler battle royales between them. Nor did I expect that a child so innocent and docile could ever muster up the gall to harm another, let alone their own sibling. I also didn’t expect I would miss the season of life when straight-jacketing (swaddling) my children was an acceptable parenting practice. But, as I got down to squash the ruckus and talk their little minds through the woes of physical altercations, I had the realization with a smile, yet again, that the presence of reality oft nudges me to reevaluate my expectations.

All across the world, many are currently celebrating the Advent season. That is, the season often referred to as a time of conscious preparation and expectancy up until the celebration of Christmas Day. This holds a very special purpose for those of the Christian faith, but regardless of whether or not that faith is yours, in our culture, I know it is safe to say that the holiday season carries with it some sort of marked expectancy in many contexts.

Maybe we’re just expecting the new year, a new start. Maybe we’re expecting special connections and memories with family. Maybe we’re expecting the trial of just trying to make it through this season with our head above water. Maybe we’re expecting hard news. Maybe we’re expecting a miracle. Or maybe we’re expecting the first holiday without a loved one. Whatever the case, we’re all expecting something this season. It’s simply in the air: Expectancy.

After the aforementioned toddler vs. kindergartener brawl, I (the striped-shirted referee) made them apologize to one another and hug it out. Through tear-streaked faces, they nodded in agreement and showcased the obligatory hug. Within 15 seconds flat, they were back to kumbaya status and destroying furniture together as a united duo of brotherly love and destructive force.

Since the brawl and the few that have followed, I have been marveling how after the conflict is deescalated, they actually seem to get along even better than before. The sting of conflict and the necessary forgiveness that follows seems to expand what they know about themselves and each other and calls out growth in both of them. Now I realize my children are young, and that we have yet to be hit with the middle-school/high-school/hormone mix of crazy. But for today, in my little realm in this tiny little example, I’m seeing that when I press into the change in expectation, reality exposes something even better — some unforeseen gem of healing and growth.

Wherever you are in this Advent season, and whether or not your expectations are exceeded, fulfilled, or maybe even let down, I’m hoping this season gives you eyes and heart to see and feel the hidden beauty of expectancy. And I hope that similarly as the story goes on that very first Christmas so many years ago, when reality and your expectations meet this season, something supernaturally unexpected is birthed. •

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