walked in the door from a camping trip with my three older children,
carrying a bag of a sub sandwiches for dinner. (My husband had stayed
home with our youngest, who became ill the day before we were to
leave for the trip.)
expected Brian’s eyes to light up with joy upon seeing what I
brought home for dinner, but instead he looked somewhat annoyed. He
then explained that he had done all the menu planning for the next
week as well as the grocery shopping, and dinner was already partly
made, with the rest soon to be underway.
went ahead with the sandwiches, and he reluctantly agreed to put the
dinner plans on hold for tomorrow.
a somewhat rambunctious dinner, Brian was clearly bothered. With some
prodding, he finally admitted to being disappointed because he had
worked hard to plan a nice dinner, and instead I unknowingly picked
up dinner, and then the kids proceeded to argue during dinner, with
at least half of the children’s cups of milk being spilled.
just wasn’t what I had planned,” he muttered
to my world,” I thought.
if parenthood isn’t a continual lesson in things not going as
planned, I don’t know what is.
I should have reminded him about our son’s birthday party
earlier in the summer.
have three sons. They all have birthdays within 14 days of each
other, at the end of May/beginning of June. Talk about bad planning
(although, most of it wasn’t planned). Such is life.
(Thankfully, our daughter’s birthday is in October.)
had survived the first two birthday parties, an Angry Birds party for
our son turning 9, and an Elmo-themed family gathering for our
2-year-old. I just had the 5-year-old’s party to go. I thought
I was in great shape.
5-year-old, Lucas, loves pirates, so my husband — who can
really draw, unlike me — drew an amazing pirate on poster
board. We had the kids at the party color some parrots we had
printed out, with which they played “pin the parrot on the
pirate.” We had fun pirate décor. We had some outdoor
play with our pirate ship water table. I made a pirate ship birthday
cake, which was so easy but in the end looked like something of a
in what I thought was my crowning glory, I read to the pirate
partygoers Lucas’ favorite book, in which some of the children
in the story pretend to be pirates sailing the seas. At the end of
their quest, the treasure map leads them to a treasure chest filled
with love notes and cookies from their moms. So, I had asked each mom
of each child to secretly send along a brief, sweet, handwritten love
note to her child, which I packed into little bags labeled with the
children’s names. The bags also contained chocolate chip
cookies and “gold” coins.
right? Not so fast.
I had read the book and sent the children to the backyard to search
for their own little treasures, they one by one trickled back in,
grinning from ear to ear as they had a cookie or two or 10 and
listened to me read the sweet notes from their moms. Some of these
kids were beaming, grins spreading across their chocolaty faces from
ear to ear. I was pleased.
a few minutes later, when my husband popped into the house,
indicating toward a tear-streaked, sobbing Lucas, and saying Lucas
was upset because he couldn’t find his treasure.
couldn’t find his treasure because I had entirely forgotten to
make one for him.
if you can imagine, we had a room full of sugared, happy children,
confident in their mother’s love, while my son, the birthday
boy, was in the backyard, heartbroken. Cue music: “It’s
my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”
was honest, and explained to Lucas that I was so busy planning his
wonderful party, and reminded him that he was going to get to open
that nice stack of birthday presents, and that I completely forgot to
make his treasure bag and note. Lame, I know. But thankfully his
forgiving heart accepted my apology.
about things not going according to plan.
parents are imperfect people, raising little people who have their
agency and are themselves imperfect. Things are bound to go wrong
sometimes — often, even.
often smile at new mothers who invest time and energy into creating
the perfect birthing plan when they are expecting their first child.
They want to dictate every nuance of the experience. They sometimes
go as far as to include the perfect music to be played during this
not that I’m against birthing plans. In fact, I think every new
mom should create one. It’s a great introduction to
motherhood, this first big lesson that things often don’t go
according to plan. It’s a lesson that will repeat time and
again in the ensuing years.
calls to mind the 1786 Robert Burns poem “To a Mouse,”
which tells of the time the poet was plowing a field and upturned a
mouse’s nest. The poem is an apology to the mouse, and includes
the following line, which also became the title of a John Steinbeck
best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley, [often
might plan a fantastic activity for our kids, only to find they
really aren’t interested. Or we might plan a great outing or
vacation, only to find it dampened by an illness. We might plan the
perfect dinner, only to be greeted by a chorus of moans of disgust,
or the perfect party, only to find we inadvertently have broken a
of course, we keep trying. Because sometimes our plans work out
(hooray!). And, because the law of opposition is real, as
frustrating as it can be when things don’t go as planned, there
is much joy when things go smoothly.
we are operating under the grandest of plans: the plan of salvation.
If we live by this plan and teach it to our children, we are sure to
find joy and in parenting and family life. It’s the one thing
that is sure to go according to plan.
Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in
journalism from the University of Minnesota.
As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in
landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.
Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home
mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel
(6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).
In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of
Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader