Week 27 – Living Without Expectation

To wish was to hope and to hope was to expect. – Sense and Sensibility

This is one thing I am most guilty of – having expectations. It’s easily done, unconsciously done, but boy is it dangerous. Expectations unknowingly creep up on you where you don’t even realize you have them until you are disappointed by them. I refuse to be disappointed by expectations anymore.

In an age of Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram – expectations are the worst. We are constantly “looking” into the lives of not only our neighbours but of perfect strangers. We see what they have – children, clothes, vacations, homes, cars, careers… and we are reminded of what we are missing.

If we maintain our focus on what we see them having… we unintentionally begin to wish for things, hope for things, and develop expectations for these things. Unhappiness is quickly invited into our hearts, wishing for the life we see others enjoying and think we deserve.

This is easily prevented – first, avoid social media. Okay, okay – that’s a tricky one… I’ll be the first to say how much I love social media. Then, we must keep in mind that the “life” we present on social media, isn’t always an accurate reflection of our lives at all. We are knowingly presenting ourselves in a very specific/purposeful way. It’s not that we want people to look at our lives and say – I want what they have… perpetuating that cycle of unfulfilled expectations (well, maybe someone out there does…). We just naturally  want to showcase the BEST parts of us.

Once we can stop attaching “wishes, hopes, and expectations” onto the social representations of our friends and followers, we can start looking inward – where we should be maintaining our focus anyway.

Spend your time looking at the things you already have, and being thankful for them.

My closest friend showed me an app, stop me if you’ve heard it: Gratitude 365.
Everyday, you are given free reign to jot down a little note to yourself about the things you are thankful for – even add a photo. My favourite part? Swipe to the right and you’ll get to see all of the things you’ve been thankful for set up in a nice (hopefully long) list. I’ve just started using this app. Each day in the month of February, I’ve been writing down one thing I’m thankful for and it’s really getting me to think “outside of the box”, as I’m trying not to repeat a “gratitude”.

Don’t get me wrong here, we are constantly and automatically creating expectations for ourselves, and will continue to do so. But, IF we can make ourselves aware of these expectations, we’ll be able to see them coming… and the disappointment that comes with not meeting those expectations, will hopefully become more of a… whoops! what was I thinking? I can’t run before I walk — or my favourite analogy, which probably exists and if not I made it up: I’m JUST keeping my head above water, how in the WORLD do I expect myself to WALK on it!? There’s only one guy I know that can do that! (That’s been doing the trick for me).

Hope you all have a great week – and that’s a week without expectations.

Week 23

I have not the pleasure of understanding you. – Pride and Prejudice

As a parent of four children (officially – I’ve counted them several times over. I assure you there is still four of them… as much as I keep pinching myself), you’d think I’d have it all figured out. Right? Maybe? Not really?… Not at all.

The most incredible thing about being a parent, is not in what you teach them, but in what they teach you. It is easy to compare them to each other, to yourself, to your siblings, to your parents… they have so-and-so’s eyes, but with such-and-such’s spirit… and I have no idea WHO he gets that HAIR from… it’s fun even – to guess who they will turn into as they grow old.

The amazing thing about it is that, ultimately, they will be like no one else, they will be them, an individual.. and that makes it so challenging.

Each one of my children needs me in a different way. Yes, yes, fundamentally they all need me the same. But, fundamentally, if every child needed their mother in the same way as another, there wouldn’t be an entire section of the book store devoted to parenting. There would be one book. And it would be easier (note: I did not say easy… I said easier).

As I get to know each of my children, I realize more and more how much I won’t be able to understand them. I have my own scope, vision, point of view that keeps getting in the way. The minute your children are born – heck, the minute your children are conceived – you begin to develop this “understanding” of who you think they are going to be. But it’s not who they are or who they will become… and that’s the hardest.

This week, instead of wishing for the pleasure of understanding, I’m hoping to let go and spend my time ignoring my misconceptions and appreciate the little people I’m getting to know (dare I say, searching for and living in the serendipity of what I am learning). I wish the same for all of you.

Here’s my amazing husband…
…dreaming up the lives of each of our precious ones.

Week 5

 

Catherine’s expectations of pleasure from her visit in Milsom-street were so very high, that disappointment was inevitable; – Northanger Abbey

Expectations. We all have them. Just yesterday, I expected to put the babies down for a nap in the morning, grab a hot cup of coffee, sit down and write this post. Hmmm… that didn’t happen at all how I expected it would. I’m beginning to think having expectations is like setting yourself up for failure. Unrealistic expectations anyway. The problem is – in the moment, I don’t feel that my expectations are unrealistic. Maybe there’s something to not having any expectations at all…

Expectations for Yourself. I am the QUEEN of to-do lists. I love making them, and often make more than one… you know, the first one is the rough copy, then I’ve got to make a good copy that’s pretty to the eye. The satisfaction that comes with crossing something off a to-do list, there’s nothing like it. But, the longer it takes me to cross things off, the more tempting it is to re-write my list altogether. Expecting myself to accomplish everything in a short amount of time, leaves me frustrated.

A typical day: Caleb will come home and ask about our day, and frustratingly all I can say is – “well I didn’t accomplish anything on my to-do list.” When really, there is so much more to our day than that. Zach and Hailey put on yet another  “show” for me, I got both of the twins laughing simultaneously, the babies finally fell asleep for two full hours and I spent that time doing damage control on the house, spending the last half hour snuggling on the couch with the big kids. Hmm… sounds like a pretty perfect day to me. So why was I so frustrated by the time Caleb walked in the door?

Realistically, I need to be choosing one thing on my to-do list, and setting that as my goal for the day. Obviously, we have the everyday that needs to be accomplished – the kids need to be fed, diapers need to be changed… but I may or may not have a shower… the laundry may or may not get folded and put away… supper may or may not be ready when Caleb is home from work… instead of feeling frustrated about it, I’m slowly starting to convince myself – it’s ok.

Expectations for Your Spouse. This is an easy one. It’s interesting how I’ve been able to easily have less expectations for Caleb and yet I’m having a harder time having less expectations for me. I’ve found, the more expectations you set on your spouse, the more unhappy with them you will be. If you are expecting them to do the dishes after supper, and they don’t, you feel disappointed, mad and sad. If your expecting them to put the kids to bed, and they come up 20 minutes after bedtime with a storybook in hand, you’re thinking, it’s about time.

Take away those expectations: You get up from the table to do the dishes. You start filling the sink and look over to find your spouse with the load of wash you had been meaning to fold all day. He’s sitting with the kids, showing them how to fold a t-shirt while they are playing the “sock sorting game”.  After you’re done washing the dishes, you bring the kids upstairs to brush their teeth and put on their pyjamas. Just as they are crawling into bed, your spouse comes in with a storybook in his hand.

Is there a better feeling?! Instead of feeling disappointed or frustrated wondering if he’s ever going to do anything to help you, you’re surprised and can’t help but feel grateful. What’s more – when you stop focusing on what your spouse is NOT doing, you have so much more time to work on bettering yourself.

Expectations for Your Kids. This one is the trickiest. Our children need to know their limits and need to have a standard of behaviour. Our children need us to set expectations – but they need to be healthy ones, children are incredibly hard on themselves, and the last thing you want to do is to set them up for failure and affect their self-esteem.

The expectations we set for our children need to be conducive to their individual development. This is a tricky one for me. Hailey is such an old soul – I have to constantly remind myself that she is 7. If I don’t, I’m expecting her to be able to control her emotions as I do, rather than as a 7 year old is able to. As a result, I instantly feel frustrated when she is behaving in a way I don’t expect.

I’m a huge believer in self-regulation. I am definitely no dictator over my children, I’m here to act as their partner, guiding them and providing them with the skills necessary to monitor their own behaviour. In this way, I am able to put the expectation of behaviour into their own hands. I’m definitely more patient with them because of this, we can sit and talk about their behaviour, how they felt they acted, and help them figure out what they would do differently next time. It’s so satisfying hearing the words come out of their own little mouths, “I need to use my words to tell Hailey to stop” instead of me having to harp at them, “Use your words! Use your words!” .

The expectations we set for our children need to be process-based, rather than focused on an outcome. As long as they are doing their best and focused on their task, they are fulfilling the expectation. Something we have started to do in our house after supper, is to have the big kids take turns wiping the table and sweeping the floor. Basically, we wanted to make them more aware as to how unbelievably messy they are when they are eating their supper. Obviously, they are not going to be able to do as complete a job as Caleb or I would do. Sometimes, it can be absolutely excruciating to try and watch them manoeuvre that broom. But, as long as they are trying their best, they’ve fulfilled my expectation and as a bonus, they try to contain their mess as they eat, knowing they will be cleaning it up.

I think the most important thing about setting expectations for our kids, is to not set expectations that we wouldn’t follow. A “do as I say not as I do” issue. Having an expectation for them to use a calm body and talking voice while we have frustrated bodies and are yelling at them?… Having an expectation for them to keep their room clean, while our room is messy – guilty! I am by far the messy one in my relationship. But, to my kids I am human, I openly talk to them about what I feel I should do differently – regulating my own behaviour and at the same time modelling how to do so in themselves.

Expectations for Your Baby. You’ve gotten through the worst of it, or so you think. After weeks and weeks of waking every few hours, your baby starts sleeping through the night. The first time it happens, you wake up wondering if they’re still breathing. Then, as it continues, you start waking up, thankful for a good night’s sleep. But expectations slowly sneak their way in. You start staying up a little later in the evening, expecting your baby to sleep through the night. Until they don’t, because they won’t. And how do you feel? Frustrated and disappointed.

Having baby on a routine or schedule is definitely important, at least for me it is – we all do what works for us don’t we? But, when we expect that our baby is going to adhere to their routine “by the book” every single day, you are looking for disappointment. Without the expectation, you are grateful in the moments that they ARE following their routine, but you’re a little more understanding when they don’t – saving you from frustration, able to enjoy those precious baby moments that never seem to last long enough.

With all that said – 

This morning I woke up with no expectations. And wouldn’t you know it? It’s 10:00am – the babies are asleep, the big kids are finished their breakfast, and I’m here, writing this post, with a hot cup of coffee in hand; babies following their routine, and my goal for the day complete.

Have a great week!

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