This week’s writing prompt is about surprises, and I remember attending an Anthony Robbins conference, a few years ago now, where he asked for a show of hands from those of us who liked surprises. Many if not all hands went up.

Tony called ‘Bullshit’ and explained most of us only liked surprises that were welcome. For instance:

  • Walking into the local supermarket to do the weekly shop, it would indeed be a surprise if all the staff were walking around butt naked covered in mud. (Imagine the mess all up in the soft fruits aisle.)
  • Or calling in the plumber to fix the small nuisance of a dripping tap to find out your newly fitted kitchen was, well, badly fitted and the whole thing needs to be re-done. Only the original builders have “dun a runner, mate.”
  • Then there’s rocking up at the doctor’s office for a pat on the back for getting your cholesterol down to within acceptable limits… to be told you have breast cancer. SURPRISE!

And I had accepted Tony’s wisdom until a recent conversation with one of my daughters illuminating that, good or bad, some people just don’t like surprises. My clue in her case was when she said:

“Mum, when are you going to get it into your head, I don’t like surprises?”

Oh.

This after I told her I was going to show up in London one weekend on a whim and ‘surprise’ her. She explained patiently that it was good I hadn’t since she had a whole day and night of cramming for an early morning exam.

We had several of these near misses until her very definitive “Mum, don’t do it.”

So, I have since got it into my thick skull to be careful with how I surprise my youngest daughter. Small surprises are okay, but my armchair psychology has traced her aversion to the grand-surprise gestures to perhaps that surprise phone call from me six years ago that her father had died. It’s easy to see how keeping control and lessening life’s unpredictables becomes attractive when viewed from that perspective.

It could also be that Granny Smith not falling too far from the proverbial tree since I’m not always great with surprises. As gregarious as I can be, walking into the office and a gaggle of people waiting to wish me well in my new job is a blood-curdling memory. (Especially after I had told close colleagues to make sure it didn’t happen, to just let me fade gracefully into the great office restroom in the sky.)

But my most recent surprise was watching my youngest son graduate last weekend. Somewhere in my stupid heart, I truly believed that my little chocolate-curls, 5-year old would always be just that. Certainly not the strapping young man in the suit, with the deep voice delivering a witty and thoughtful speech on that podium last weekend.

Actually, when did all my four babies grow up to become such young men and women of the world?

I just didn’t see it coming.