Saturday, June 12, 2010

Expectations

Nothing is more important to me than my relationship with my children. That includes your expectations.

As parents it is hard not to concern ourselves with what other people think about our children and our parenting. (Even if you don't have kids it can be hard not to let concerns about what others think about you affect your mental and emotional state.) When you are in the grocery store w/ a screaming child, or when you snap at your child's simple request while shopping, you start to feel like everyone is watching you and you just know that in their minds they are judging you as a parent. And that's with strangers! It gets even more difficult when the people watching are family members and you know they are judging your parenting and your children because they say things out loud.

My husband and I continuously seek to improve our parenting. We have high and lofty ideals to which we aspire. Knowing and admitting that we fall short we do not give up as failures, we do not lay blame, we do not criticize each other. Instead, we support and encourage each other, and we seek out friends who share the same ideals and who will help hold us accountable. We have found a path that is incredibly compatible with who we are as individuals and as a family. This isn't some random experiment we are trying with our children. If you really need them, we can show you scientific studies that back us up. More importantly, families who have traveled this path have shown us that it supports children in their growth and development as healthy, joy filled people who follow their passions and are comfortable in their own skin. It also builds amazing family relationships.

When I focus on the expectations of others instead of my expectations for myself as a parent I run the risk of damaging my relationship with my child. In the past I know that I have repeatedly failed in this area. There have been too many times when some one has been disrespectful to my kids, discounted their feelings, been critical of their hair or dress, or manipulated their behavior through bribes or guilt, when I have failed to adequately step in and protect or support my kids. At times I have pushed my children to do things just to meet other people's expectations instead of showing them respect myself. Why? I was concerned that if I stepped in I would upset the adult involved, or I would fail to remain calm and unemotional, or the adult would think I was over reacting or being overly critical. It was easier to push my child to conform than to stand up to another adult. Painfully true. Particularly true when the other adult was a relative.

Changing family patterns is tough. There are generations of relationships that have gotten us where we are today. In our family we only spend a month's worth of days out of each year with relatives, which makes it harder to practice new ways of communicating and easier to ignore hurtful patterns. It also makes our growth as people and parents more obvious because we are compared to who we were a year ago, not who we were last Sunday at dinner.

Next week we will be attending a family reunion. We have always enjoyed our time with the larger extended family. This year, however, feels like a test. Having made radical changes in our parenting and daily life over the past year, I know that it is more important than ever that I keep my focus on my relationship with my children. If I get caught up in the expectations of others I will let us all down, if I can stay present for my kids I can make strides in changing long standing family patterns. For me that change begins with this:

Nothing is more important to me than my relationship with my children. That includes your expectations.

5 comments:

  1. Be strong. Family gatherings are often the most toxic places you can be.

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  2. I can well understand your concerns. I'm made some really good growth/changes in the last month and last night we hung out w/ people we haven't seen in a while and I found it a near constant struggle to stay in my new space.

    I'm pretty sure I let my kids down a time or two - I'm also pretty sure I peacefully held to my heart as well - so all in all I think it went well - better than I'd feared and not as good as I'd hoped.

    Family seems like it would/will be harder than friends - older patters and all - I send you good wishes and strength for that!

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  3. Deb's last sentiment speaks volumes! I will be sending strength and positive energy to you and to Jess!

    Wow, that was cathartic, I will just leave my ramblings out. The result though...

    If we can resolve our confidence in our decision, KNOWING that what we are doing is what is right for our families, the rest doesn't matter, does it? They aren't going to change our feelings. Do you owe anyone an explanation? Are you obligated to defend what you KNOW is right for your family? Do you really have to answer anyone's questions? When my 5 year old asked me how the baby got in my tummy, I gave him as much info as he needed, and left out the rest. Who would it hurt if we treated our adult family the same way? "We are doing what works for us..." "ABC is progressing in her schooling..." "XYZ is loving what she is learning about..." Other than that, they don't really NEED to know anything, do they?

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  4. Thank all three of you for your comments and your support! :) I'm looking forward to blogging upon my return w/ new insights into how far I've come and how far I still have to go :) Fortunately it's a journey so where ever I am, that's were I am. There's no wrong place to be along the way as long as I'm still on the path. :)

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  5. Jenna, this is incredibly meaningful to me. Not to go into detail, just to say thank you for posting this. It is a struggle that has over the years finally made being as far away from my family as possible the only way I retain my sense of myself and my beautiful relationship with my children.

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