EXPECTATIONS are tricky things. When we expect bad news it never seems so bad, but, of course, we get it mostly when we least expect it.
(As I write this I smile at the fact that bad news is often cloaked in opportunity – when we give our judgments back to God and allow Him to launder them for us, He transforms us by the renewing of our minds.)
At the end of my son’s swimming lesson recently the teacher handed me a re-enrolment slip. He is to repeat the same level next term. Repeat? Suddenly, just for a moment, I caught myself thinking, “Well, this can’t be right… ” Many other thoughts were then entertained, all of them false: he swims like a fish; he wasn’t assessed right; the standards are too high; maybe other people’s kids repeat, but mine? etc. All excuses or non-truths.
I’m afraid to say my thinking reveals the thinking of many parents of our age, wanting everything to run in favour of our kids. Not that that is bad in and of itself. But it potentially leads to some pretty onerous expectations that us parents place on anyone charged with teaching or leading our children. And, when acted out consistently, it potentially leads to entitled children.
The fact is our children will win some and they’ll lose some. Sometimes they advance beyond our expectations. At other times, our unconscious expectations aren’t met. Because we sometimes cannot bear to think that our child isn’t ‘special’. Again, a symptom of our age, if we’re honest. But perhaps that drive was always there – our children, the extension of one’s own ego.
After I dressed my son I queried the teacher just to clarify that he was to re-enrol in the present class (which may say more than what I wish to admit). She explained his areas of deficiency. I had seen these weaknesses. But even had I not I would have believed her, which is based in an overriding drive to have an effective relationship with an authority figure in my son’s life. But I could tell my query of clarification made her a little uneasy. And the fact that she was unsettled communicated to me that she was unsure if I could be trusted with the truth. I can certainly understand why she possibly felt that way.
Our kids experience triumph and disappointment, but us parents need to realise they’re defined by neither of them.
As parents we need to place less stock in our kids’ achievements and more stock in our commendation of their efforts.
Steve Wickham is a Pastor and writer who holds degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counseling.