You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset

by Elizabeth Donovan

You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset

I love this quote. It’s delightfully thorough in its simplicity. It’s a remarkably insightful, yet deliberately blunt statement about life and how to live it. No, it’s not Shakespeare, but it’s a wonderous little work of literary art in its own right. And it’s something I never knew before my then four-year-old daughter taught it to me.


As I pulled up in the carpool lane to pick her up at preschool, I watched as her class filed through the double doors. It was her day to be the line-leader and she took particular delight in the fact that all the other kids had to part like the Red Sea as she confidently made her way to the front. Her face was beaming as I waved at her from the car; her hand-made golden paper tiara marked her right of passage as the line-leading princess. I smiled as I peered through the cracked car window. I glanced back at my other two babies sleeping in the backseat. I popped open the van door as she approached the car, still wearing the tiara, but minus the smile. Instead, her face was sullen and serious. As I buckled her into the car seat I asked her what had happened. I couldn’t fathom anything so horrible that it would ruin the day that she reined as queen of the preschool kingdom. She pointed to her right hand where a pretty princess sticker was glued. It glistened in the sunlight, reflecting a colorful rainbow—and my daughter’s weary face. “It’s not exactly the one I wanted,” she explained. “I wanted the one with Ariel on it.” But before I could speak, she boldly announced, “But my teacher says you ‘get what you get and you don’t get upset’ so it’s ok mom.”


I was so proud of her for turning what could have been a sea of tears into a faint smile. How did my little girl get so wise? As I drove home, I thought about that simple quote. It really was the perfect way to explain so many things in life. It’s a refreshing way to deal with the bad times and look forward to the good ones.


Every since that day, my daughter and I use the phrase to explain everything from why she got PB&J for lunch to why I am not, absolutely not, going to “try” for the boy. You get what you get and you don’t get upset. Does life get any simpler or more complex than that?