How important are Expectations?

A friend of mine told me, “I never get my hopes up about vacations.  You get ready to go, you go and then you come home.  Puff, all gone.”  He looked a little sad, or maybe wistful, and added, “Why expect something out of the ordinary that probably won’t happen?”

He always seems somewhere between mellow and depressed.  Trudging through life, being a nice man who doesn’t appear very happy.  I like him, but I always feel the urge to cheer him up.

English: Kirnu, a steel roller coaster in Linn...

English: Kirnu, a steel roller coaster in Linnanmäki. Suomi: Kuva Kirnusta. Français : Les montagnes russes finlandaises Kirnu à Linnanmäki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SO:  How important are expectations?

Expectations come in a variety of forms.  We were invited to dinner by a family with teenagers.  The teenagers ate a completely different meal in another room as the adults settled into a wonderfully prepared salmon feast.

“Aren’t the kids eating with us?” we asked.

“Oh, you know kids, we’re lucky to have them as close as the next room.”

SO:  How important are expectations?

“My five-year-old is so smart he’s bad.”  Yes, you read that right.  I heard that just the other day.  My guess is that this son will eventually prove his mother’s words correct–in trouble at school, in sports, with girls, etc.  His mother will shake her head and wonder why her charming, cute child just can’t seem to follow the rules.

Expectations are a cornerstone in building character, integrity, and shaping personality.

I’m guessing my somewhat sad friend will remain unmoved by any joyous moments that come into his life–because he doesn’t want to experience the pain of loss, he would rather deny himself the opportunity for any happiness.

I missed having kids sharing a meal, practicing “grown-up” interactions and bringing their youthful viewpoints to the discussion.  Without their parent’s expectation for their appropriate participation, we all missed an opportunity for shared relationship.  How will these kids feel comfortable in the future at other dining tables–social and business?

Our five-year-old may be influenced greatly by a teacher or coach and find a way out of having to be “bad” to meet his mother’s “endearing” perceptions, but my guess is if she continues this type of personal description she will inadvertently start a life-long struggle for her child.

Expectations are fundamentally one of the most valuable tools we have to direct our lives and our children’s lives.

Be gentle with your expectations for yourself and your children.

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2 Responses to How important are Expectations?

  1. patricemj says:

    I commented yesterday but lost it. I agree, we need expectations, only I think they should not be so specific. The specificity of our wants actually keeps us from seeing all that life has given us. And when the specific want goes unfulfilled, we despair. I like to think, hey, I’m stepping out the door, I am open to what comes my way, I will keep my hands and heart extended. When I can do this so much comes to me, too much really, that sooner or later I have to seek shelter from exhaustion 😉 The abundance of life, it’s fullness, tires us, helps us sleep through the long dark nights.

    A lot of what you talk about above, to me, isn’t so much about poor expectations but more about lack of original thought…as in the “bad” comment. Before we can criticize people for having poor or wrong expectations, we need them to develop awareness of how their expectations come to them. Most of these ideas, about the vacation, about “teenagers being teenagers” and the badness of the precocious child are cliches – tired notions that people wear to make sense of their lives. I hate the way these notions interfere, form a barrier, between the moment lived and the person living it. These notions teach us not to form relationships to our experiences – as they explain our experiences for us before we have the chance to have them. And without really having the experience we can’t really be expected to form our own expectations. We can’t really be expect to own our life. And without some ownership there is despair and resignation. And hence the hunger for more cliches to seal up what we see as a meaningless existence.

    • dearfriends says:

      Hi Patrice,
      What a thoughtful review of my piece. I am in agreement with you. Your phrasing encourages all of us to look “to color outside of lines.” Thoughtful parenting involves a commitment to both self growth and that extension to children. My purpose in presenting these small fragments of “life” is to mirror our actual behaviors that go unnoticed or unchallenged. I’m so pleased that you took the time to respond with such wonderful clarification. Thank you for your invaluable input, Barb

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