Expectations. I’ve been mulling over this word for the past couple of weeks. It is so multi-faceted and loaded with meaning depending on your own perspective. Personally, I have a positive association with the word that is not heavy with that built-in polarity that some seem to always associate with expectations (fulfilled or unfulfilled; high or low; etc). When I say that I expect my daughter to do something (i.e., put her toys away), I am saying:
I trust my daughter to put her toys away. I believe my daughter is capable of putting her toys away. I have no reason to doubt that my daughter will put her toys away.
But for some, they hear:
I take for granted that my daughter will put her toys away. I will be disappointed if my daughter does not put her toys away.
I initially looked at the second connotation as a wild departure from my personal interpretation of expectations; the word has been imbued with not just entitlement, but this predetermined disappointment. The second statement is not actually an expectation of my daughter — it is actually a lack of appreciation and an assumption that she might fail.
However, even with positive expectations there is the possibility of too much. Because I truly expect the best in and from my daughter, I can be guilty of being a bit thrown off when she isn’t living up to that expectation in a specific moment. In those moments I have slowly come to realize that my daughter cannot be expected to do anything when something is missing, and it is my challenge as a parent to help her find or fill that missing need so that she can restore an equilibrium.
A little while back, she had displayed a few instances of what I would consider poor behaviour/choices, but when I reflected and looked at what she was struggling with I saw that her emotional tank was not full. In that moment, she needed more positive affirmation and connection to feel “right.” Instead of focusing on which expectations were not being fulfilled, I focused on giving her what she needed in order to fulfill them. I also had to recognize that she has an expectation of me to help show her how to right herself when things feel slightly off.
For me, bringing a different meaning to “expectation” and seeing my part in my daughter’s ability to achieve (in everything from setting up a prepared environment to keeping emotionally connected) has removed the concept of disappointment. Rather than going to the finality of disappointment when my daughter does not initially achieve an expectation, I am moved instead to look for what is missing so that she can achieve that expectation; I show my trust in her even when she is not displaying that trust in herself (or “earning” mine). I do not want to understate how hard that can be at times, but it gains even more power when it is hard and when I am filled with emotions and thoughts about my daughter’s choices.