Monday, June 09, 2008

Expect...what?

The interesting thing about having a child with a disability, or probably dealing with any of life's challenges, I suppose, is that it crystallizes your inner struggles or weaknesses and holds them up to the end of your nose so that you can look at them....really see them.

The idea that's been following me around lately is that I have so many problems keeping realistic expectations for my son. I can slide up and down the spectrum from having ridiculous expectations for a kid with his specific issues to having really limiting expectations for a child of his age. The problem isn't recognizing (after the fact of course) that I've had an error in judgement. The problem I have with this is it that I find myself coursing up and down this spectrum in response, trying to dial it in (which is really difficult when "appropriate" expectations can vary from hour to hour with this child) all the while knowing that the one thing I am teaching myself is to doubt my instincts.

As a parent, we are trained to believe that our expectations of our children will set the tone for their entire lives. Expect too much, they will feel set up to fail, unable to ever meet your demands. Expect too little, they will become lazy and complacent and never really know what it takes to reach and try. Ah the pressure! We can make ourselves crazy with our expectations of ourselves regarding the expectations we have of our children. OK, well, maybe that's just me.

The thing is (why is it, I can't type that phrase without thinking I'm ripping off Barb now?) this is just a magnified truth about who I am as a person. I am the woman who agonizes over whether or not I can call a friend at 5:30 because it is too close to dinner time, and again at 8:30 because I don't know when her kids go to bed...and by 3:30 two days later I'm sure she's probably miffed at me for not calling back. (Jotting down my list of psychosis? Gee, blogging is fun.) I struggle with ideas like the Law of Attraction because I consistently monitor how realistic my expectations are, and eventually I end up regulating myself right to the point of envisioning my life just as it is now. I guess I'm trying to say, I'm not an expert at modulating expectations. I'm barely a novice. And I guess I thought I'd be further along by this place in my life. But hey, Steve Pavlina tells me (yes, if you didn't know, all of his blog posts that millions of people read are actually directed at me, everyone else is eavesdropping) that no matter where you think you ought to be, you are where you are, and trying to start somewhere else is just...well...stupid.

So I woke up this morning with the decision to expect nothing, and instead, just follow my gut, with a tender questioning quality at everything I touch. I did some things with my son that some people, maybe even people that have more expertise with children with behavioral disabilities than I might have seen as really lenient. But my son, who is somewhat famous for NOT being a morning person, got out the door with a smile on his face and a soft sweet "I love you, mama." at the door. He also only told his brother to shut up once, which is sort of a miracle. I carried it through later when I dealt with another difficult situation, maybe being more demanding of my other son's day camp director than a lot of parents might have done. But ultimately, she rose to the occasion, and helped me place bigger expectations upon my son, even when she was ready to throw in the towel. But I felt along the way, trying to put my foot in the groove, rather than swinging wildly from one end of the spectrum to another, knowing that the spectrum was doing all the swaying for me.

No, I didn't conquer my expectations in a day...but maybe I did realize that they don't really accomplish as much as I give them credit for anyway. In fact, knowing what they are worth, how much weight to give them, when they come up, that is really the key.

But you probably already knew that. Next I'll be blogging about these crazy kids Dick and Jane and their dog, Spot. He runs you know.

3 comments:

Cathy said...

You know, sometimes just getting them to do a "normal" thing without a big production is the most amazing thing and brings total satisfaction. Who cares how you get there, ya know?

I have to share that Alex (who has been told he's not responsible enough to watch Zack after school and isn't allowed to walk him home) came home early today and called me at work. 3pm - he says "Mom, I didn't go to tennis camp because they canceled it. But, I'm worried - how will Zack get home today?" I knew at that moment that if I had asked him to walk up to school and walk Zack home, he would have done so perfectly. Any other day, that wouldn't be the case.

They can amaze us sometimes huh?

Karly said...

When you find the "Goldilocks/just right" level for expectations, please send the secret my way!

And if you also can tell me how to make my husband realize he is not deaf and turn down the volume on the TV, that would be great too. Almost 4 years of trying has gotten me nowhere.

farm suite said...

Oh my goodness. I have so much respect for you and awe at this post. Modulating our expectations leads to control of our responses and it's just a really, really good cycle to get into.

I'd bet your son noticed too. Even if he didn't name it, it surely made a victory in his leaving with a soft word. You rock.

AND you stood your ground with the day camp counselor, expecting more of him/her.

That would be a day for the record books in my house.

Thanks so much for posting this. You encouraged me!

Yes, I did.


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