Monday, February 29, 2016

Some Expectations are Necessary

Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises. ~William Shakespeare (All's Well That Ends Well)

Friends who know me well, know that I have a philosophy that expectations are what allow us to be hurt by other people so I usually have no or, at least, very low expectations of other people. That being said, before I had devised the new homeschool plan described in my last post, my daughter and I were still hashing it out over trying to fit into the old one. At one point, she screamed that my expectations of her were too high. It was during this time that I was beginning to accept what we had been doing was not working well for either of us. Her perception was not entirely accurate, but it also had some truth.

We sat down and talked about those expectations during one of our morning devotions, because the reality was that she was not meeting mine, but she also was mistaken in what my expectations were. She also knows my philosophy, so this was her teenage gotcha-now way of finding fault in practicing my own ideology on expectations, spurring our discussion about reasonable vs. unreasonable expectations.

People we trust the most are the ones on which we have the most expectations and most are reasonable. This is practically inescapable in human nature. As parents, we expect our children to obey us. When children disobey, there is a consequence, a punishment, to remind them and help train them to comply with the rules that are set for their protection and to train them to behave. You cannot explain to a toddler why he should not run out into the street, because he will not fully understand that he will be in harm's way, that he could be injured or killed by a car, but he will remember the spanking of a repeat offense. (For those against spanking, I feel it is better than letting them learn this one by experience.)

Unreasonable expectations are the ones that we have not communicated to the other person, like I might expect my husband to call me if he is going to be home late, but his idea of late maybe 9:00 pm and mine might be 6:30 pm. It is unreasonable to think he just knows what I have in mind without talking with him and coming to an agreement on the time.

Another unreasonable expectation is to want someone to be different than they are. This is something that cannot be agreed upon and cannot be changed by the person who has the expectation. Imposing an expectation, even one that you have communicated to the other person, is not going to change him and is only going to hurt you because it is continually unmet. I had such a relationship with my mother; she just never was and never was going to be the mother I needed her to be, but once I identified that expectation and let go of it, I was finally free to love and enjoy her for the person she was. We were never close, but I was no longer hurt by her casual remarks; in fact, I often laughed about the things she said that used to feel like stabbing into old wounds and upset me for days afterwards.

I explain to my daughter that with education, there will always be some expectations, that is why there are test scores. Her father must at least meet most of the expectations of his employer to keep his job and exceed them to be considered for promotion. This is just how the world works. Likewise, I, as both her mother and her teacher, have some expectations of her when it comes to homeschooling. I cannot hug her and and comfort her because she felt the teacher was mean to her at school as her mother, because I am also the teacher. I cannot be detached about the quality of the work she hands in and I grade as her teacher, because I am also her mother, who can be disappointed.

So, I am not lowering the bar on my expectations of my daughter because I do believe I should have some, but not unreasonable ones. I do not see her as an "A" student in math, but I still want her to strive to do her best and she has earned some A's. I do see her as an off-the-charts student in Language Arts because she is and I do expect very few grades lower than A's there. Mostly, I expect her to learn, really learn, the material she is assigned. I also expect her to be a teenager, who one minute wants her independence and the next the security of her parents. Now that we have a chart and daily communication about assignments so that there are no unspoken expectations, things are much better...and probably as good as they can be between a teen and a homeschooling mama. 

My Lord, help my daughter to understand that expectations are a part of life, but how she deals with them is very important. Let her not be crushed by the weight of expectations place on her by others, let her set her own reasonable expectations on herself, keeping ones on others very low.

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.