Lowered Expectations

Photo Credit: Fran from CartoonStock.com

I can’t remember what the Bear and I were arguing about, but it had escalated. She was furious with me and I was in that weird zone where everything is up for grabs. You know the one? When you’re between that knee-jerk reaction and knowing that you should be the calm and rational parent? Where there is that push-pull between reasonable arguments and caving to the ‘damn-it-I’m-the-parent’ response?

It all ended suddenly with her slamming the door to her bedroom like a 14-year-old. I was fine with this; I didn’t want to deal with any more emotion. Besides, I had dinner to make. The Bear stayed in her room while I shuffled around the kitchen with a fake smile on my face for Banana’s benefit. The Bear’s self-imposed enclosure in her room seemed to last a long time. Eventually, I looked at the clock and realized that 40 minutes had passed – this was a pretty hefty stretch for a five-year-old. I knocked softly and opened the door. There she was, fast asleep in her bed, her eyes puffy from crying.

Of course, I immediately softened. Maybe this is why, today, I can’t remember what the argument was even about. She was no longer the daughter who needed to be reined in; she was suddenly my little girl who needed a big hug.

One of my biggest challenges in being a slow parent is constantly rethinking my expectations of both the Bear and Banana. I’m not – nor was I ever – at the extreme end of parenting. I never believed that they were going to be professional athletes or needed grooming for winning a Nobel Prize. But MJ and I do have basic expectations – like being polite or using proper manners at the dinner table or flushing the toilet, please.

In my rational mind, I know expectations of our children need to be reasonable and age appropriate. But sometimes even basic expectations can intensify until they are no longer reasonable or age appropriate. When I saw the Bear fast asleep in her bed at only 5:30 in the evening, I was reminded that she was only five. She is still cranky when she is over-tired, hungry or has to go to the bathroom. She doesn’t have the capacity to manage her emotion like adults. I was also reminded that we don’t need to stress about every moment of today – she is a pre-schooler who has many, many more years and influences ahead of her.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have expectations of our children. Indeed, I would be worried by parents who said that they had no expectations. But I do think it is important to keep certain expectations in check. I want to push a little, but never too hard. And ultimately, I want her to remember our love for her rather than our disappointment.

2 Responses to “Lowered Expectations”

  1. 1 Michelle June 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I suspect this is something we’ll encounter over and over again, as we work to find that balance between guiding our children and allowing them to make their own mistakes. In this house we’re trying (and not always succeeding) to give our boys the tools they need to make decisions for themselves. It’s not easy watching your child make a mistake, especially when you know that you could have prevented it or somehow changed the outcome. We have high expectations of our boys, similar to yours for Bear and Banana: good manners, common sense, doing your best, using good (albeit age-appropriate) judgement, etc. I hope, however, that we never expect a particular outcome: straight A’s, a hat trick every soccer game. In an ideal world, they’ll grow up to be motivated, sensible and happy people….then I’ll know that somehow we had achieved that balance.

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