"Reuven didn't tell me there was a kid's party in the community center last night," my ten year old son, Shalom, groused as he slumped into a chair at the kitchen table. Reuven is our neighbors' ten-year-old son, who attends a different school and has relatively little to do with any of my children, other than taunting them at any opportune moment.

I shook my head in disbelief. Where would Shalom ever get the idea that Reuven would tell him absolutely anything? Those two had been bickering since Reuven's parents had moved into the neighborhood over eighteen months ago. And of all expectations, that he would invite him to a party? It seemed absurd, and yet, when I looked into my son's droopy brown eyes, I understood that this "non-invitation" was a genuine disappointment.

My son wrinkled his brown eyes with one of his "you just don't get it" stares "Shalom," I said, taking his hand, "you don't really play with Reuven [I didn't mention – you don't even really speak to him], so I'm not sure why you would think that it would be on his mind to invite you. Besides, it doesn't sound like it was even his party, but only something at the community center."

My son cocked his head sideways and wrinkled his brown eyes with one of his "you just don't get it" stares (do mothers ever get anything?). "He lives in our neighborhood, doesn't he? Why shouldn't he let me know, even if it wasn't his party? He went to it," he grumbled, kicking the leg of the kitchen table.

After quite a long discussion, I somehow managed to convince Shalom that his expectations of Reuven may have been too high, and after a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a promise to take him and his brothers to the pool later that day, he cart-wheeled out the door, ready to greet another day of summer mischief and adventure.

I thought long and hard about those "Reuven Expectations" during the day. After all, as the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism, noted, "not even a leaf blows in the wind unless G‑d wills it to happen." There was a message of Divine Providence buried in the "Reuven Expectations" saga; not only for Shalom, but for me as well. How often, I grimaced, did I feel affronted if the neighbor, or even - I hated to admit it – the check-out clerk, didn't greet me with a smile; if I wasn't included on the invitation list (never mind I barely knew the hostess), or if my sister-in-law didn't pay me a visit when I had the flu. Maybe, I pondered, those expectations were the very same "Reuven Expectations" in disguise.

I began to think about just how many minutes (or hours, or even more), I had bitterly mulled over the failure of relatives, friends, co-workers and even strangers to live up to my expectations. Of course, none of those "disappointers" had a clue about this. After all, why would they? The expectations were mine alone. A formula seemed to emerge from all of this – the greater the expectation, the more likely someone would fall short, and the result could lead to anger and bitterness. The lower the expectation, the less likely a disappointment (and perhaps even a pleasant surprise), and the outcome would lead to peace and contentment. The second formula, of course, was the obvious choice.

I began to expect that my young children would grind their corn flakes into the floorIt sounded simple, but the challenge in life is to put goals into action. Since the High Holidays had barely passed, I decided to apply my efforts towards strengthening the character trait of contentment and lowering my "Reuven Expectations."

With new resolve, I began to expect that my young children would grind their corn flakes into the floor, drop their laundry on the stairwell, and argue over whose turn it was to play with the dollhouse. I began to expect that my middle-school children would bicker sometimes (well, at this point, more than sometimes) over whatever bothered them at the moment, and that they would not joyfully fly into bed at their designated bedtime hour, but would, instead, tiptoe into the kitchen for drinks of water and the pleasure of an extra few minutes of their parents' time and attention. I concentrated on understanding that the neighbor may have her own list of worries replete in her day and couldn't focus on greeting me properly, so I reversed the tide and greeted her with a smile.

As the days went on, I realized something even more profound – my "Reuven Expectations" were not only targeted at my fellow man, but at myself, too, in all the times I hadn't lived up to my own expectations, however far-reaching. And even more astounding, at the Creator of the World – in the promotion that I didn't get, the wait at the check out line, the financial grind. I began to notice a long list of unfulfilled "entitlements" which were cluttering my peace of mind.

I had never thought of my disappointed grumblings as obstructions, but that is exactly what they were – they were blocking me from orchestrating my day with joy. I remembered a principle from our Sages, and particularly Rabbi Nachman of Breslov – regarding faith: to have complete faith that everything comes from G‑d, that each detail in life is tailor made for the recipient, has a purpose, and is always – even if it doesn't seem like it at the time – for a person's ultimate benefit.

With this in mind, I began to look at the letdowns in my day, not as disappointments, but as messages - the neighbors grousing at me is a reminder to be more compassionate with a friend; I had to redress my preschooler for the sixth time so I can deepen my patience with others; and my chocolate cake burned in the oven to highlight the hundreds of times it bakes just perfectly.

I started to view those daily nuisances as deeply purposeful and for the good. These challenges were exactly what I needed – special, precise, Divine messages to light my path along the way.

I saw my earlier conversation with my son as the gift it was meant to be - a message for growth at the start of this New Year. I could expect life to challenge me, even jolt me at times, but always maintain the knowledge that my "Reuven Expectations" would probably not be met. but rather, those disappointments are tailor-made with love to shape the fibers of my character, stretch my tolerance and illuminate the path of wisdom.

I sighed, but this time with joy, as I looked down at my five-year-old, who had just managed to decorate my favorite, and only, white blouse with deep black magic marker. Yes, I smiled, this is exactly what I needed… and Heaven sent at that.