I was raised Catholic. It is funny to say now as most people don’t consider me very “Catholic” and I wonder what that means. However the religion isn’t the point in this story it is the fact that every Sunday my Mom would take three girls to mass usually alone and every Tuesday we would go to Catechism (Bible Study). It was expected that we would dress up for Church, sit nicely through Mass and of course listen and behave.
There were so many expectations and as far as I can remember and even as far as my mom is concerned the three of us were fairly good at meeting expectations, especially when we were younger.
Fast forward to today. Easter Sunday and I decided to attempt Church with Grace, Rowen finds out and says he wants to come too. I am immediately nervous as I know for him an hour long Mass that is most likely very busy and potentially loud isn’t his optimum environment. I am also nervous thinking about everyone around me and their expectations of me and my kids.
Then I remember it doesn’t matter what other people expect as long as I know what to expect and what I am willing to tolerate. I didn’t expect to be able to stay for the whole mass, I didn’t expect my kids to be silent or even to sit still but to be respectful. We opted to go into the “crying room” which meant the kids could walk around a bit and make noise without disrupting the whole church. I also didn’t expect Rowen to dress up, I think he looked nice (no sweat pants) but he didn’t have a dress shirt. I wanted him to be comfortable, as well as Grace of course but she loves dressing up.
I was nervous to take my kids to Mass and had been avoiding it for a while, or chickening out whenever it actually came around to it. The kids are attending the school at our Church and will be participating in religion as well as all the regular school curriculum. I think it is important for me that they know about the Church we belong to and that they are able to sit through Mass, go to special occasion Masses (or more if they choose). I know that by adjusting my expectations I am not disappointed in today, but I actually am happy with todays achievement. Making it to Mass and sitting through part of it, plus leaving without any major incident is an achievement to me.
We made it half an hour so halfway through the service, the kids were fairly quiet and played nicely with the other kids in the room. Rowen knew and interacted so nicely with a couple of his classmates from school and Grace genuinely seemed interested and happy to be at church.
What I have been learning is I am more disappointed when my expectations are unreasonable then when I do not have expectations and wait to see how things go.
Friday night we took the kids to the pool, which is not always my favourite thing as we are two adults responsible for three very brave and confident toddler swimmers. If you have ever taken one child to the pool you will understand they go in and they are off, so when you have three kids all swimming in different directions it is hard to be close enough to catch them when they start to drown (because usually mine do). Fraser thinks I exaggerate but it feels like that is what is happening. However Friday night I suggested swimming knowing how badly my kids have been asking to go back to Hawaii and the pool… since I couldn’t do that I figured lets hit up the leisure center. I had no expectations but gotta say the night was perfect. The kids had almost the whole pool to themselves. The lifeguards were great and we were able to “save” our kids and stay close enough to them. Best part was everyone came home exhausted and went to bed easy.
Saturday we attempted to scooter and bike ride to a park and meet up with my sister and nieces. My kids don’t have the best road safety or fear of traffic so it is always scary when taking them anywhere on the road. Plus they also aren’t made to walk or ride places that often so I wasn’t sure about the distance. Without any expectations for how the day would go it went fantastic.
I think sometimes we place all these expectations on our life and our kids that are completely unreasonable and then we are so focused on making sure they happen the way we expect we don’t allow things to naturally unfold. Saturday was a perfect example because we kinda let the kids take the lead on what they wanted to do and for how long and it turned out better than I could have imagined. The other thing is instead of focusing on the unmet expectations I am able to focus on enjoying the moment and having fun.
I ran into a friend of ours with a son Eleanor’s age on Saturday while we were at the park and he mentioned they had just been at a organized sports class for his 3 year old. His first comment was that the instructors had these expectations for the kids that were totally not happening at all and that they just kept teaching. It took me back to our first dance class we had where the teacher, although nice, was very young and no kids of her own. Her expectations of the kids who at the time were only two was so far from their capability. It was interesting to me to see someone’s expectations be so different too, mine were literally to have something to get us out of the house and to have fun, dance literally meant dance around to me. It was Graces first experience dancing in a lessons as well as my first class with my two year old. Halfway through the class I stopped taking Grace because I was so disappointed in the class and I felt like we were not meeting the teachers expectations every class and it was just frustrating. The crazy thing is, had she looked around and even asked what everyone wanted out of the class I bet she could have easily adapted and had a class full of happy two year olds. Expectations can really alter our experiences and how much joy or lack of joy we get out of them.
I think it is unreasonable to say you can live your life without expectations, but I think whenever you can keep them in check! Or adjust them when you realize something isn’t what you thought it would be. You are not disappointing anyone other than maybe yourself. It is also good to remember expectations can change especially when life changes… your disposable income or financial status could change, the age and ability of your kids changes, your work schedule and free time changes through out your life as well as so many other things.
One area I have always had expectation with our kids in is extra curricular. I love all the fun activities, gymnastics, dance, lacrosse, art class. You name it, I wanted our kids to do it all. Especially while they are young, let them try everything. Now we have a son in a three day a week Autism program in Richmond and two of our kids in two days a week of preschool. It is a lot of driving and we are somewhere Monday to Friday sometimes more than one commitment a day. It doesn’t sound like much but for 2,3 and 4 year olds that is a lot (even to a 34 year old it feels like a lot). I can honestly say I have had to majorly adjust my expectations. It is something I have to do regularly, because I get caught up in what all the other families and kids are all signed up for and then my darling husband reminds me we are not all the other families. We are us, we like sleeping in and being lazy on Sundays, we like spur of the moment road trips or day trips, we don’t want to force our kids to play things they aren’t interested in and we have to look at what is best for our family of five not just one person out of the whole family. I also know that at 2, 3 and 4 years old they are not “falling behind” by missing a couple of years in a team sport. My expectations isn’t to raise Olympic or professional athletes, it is actually to encourage balance between all the demands of life, to allow choice and show that everyone has different interests and strengths and really to allow our kids to lead us into the areas they are interested in. I hope they will all play some team sport at any level, it does not have to be extreme or competitive I just think it is a good opportunity to build social skills and learn life lessons like winning and loosing.
Basically the reoccurring theme in my weekend has been one of adjusting and constantly reviewing your expectations. Not just expectations you have for yourself, which are super important, but your expectations of others. I know when I have these big expectations of others it can be crushing to me when they are not met but sometimes I haven’t even told the other person and the expectation is so unreasonable it couldn’t have even happened, so it was more like a dream than an expectation.
I challenge you to care less what other people think, and try to live in the moment and enjoy things as they come instead of getting too worked up in expectations (when you can), and to judge less because we never know another persons story and situation.