I had two conversations recently that got me thinking a lot about expectations and the importance of being a good example.
Both conversations were about Mother’s Day.
Both were women who were disappointed in how their children had treated them – or not treated them on Mother’s Day. Their kids had “forgotten” about Mother’s Day, or treated it casually and quite thoughtlessly.
I felt bad for both of them. One of them pointed out how she does everything for her kids; is always there for them, running around, doing everything…the nerve of them to not even acknowledge the day.
So I shared with her my favorite excerpt from the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua. Now, I know this was a very controversial book. However, there was one particular section in it that changed me forever. I talked about the book more here, but I’ll recap for you what I had written back then:
The Birthday card story: I loved this story and shared it with my kids because I think her point is extremely valuable. Her husband makes dinner reservations at some mediocre restaurant for her birthday (because he had left it too late to get into a really good restaurant) and her daughters give her some lame, half hearted, thrown together, handmade birthday card. Now many mothers would praise anything their kids give them, and shower them with gratitude for the card. But instead she says:
“I don’t want this, I want a better one – one that you’ve put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and this one can’t go in there”….” What if I gave you this for your birthday – would you like that? But I never would do that. No – I get you magicians and giant slides that cost me hundreds of dollars. I get you huge icecream cakes shaped like penguins, and I spend half my salary on stupid sticker and eraser party favours that everyone throws away. I work so hard to give you good birthdays! I deserve better than this. So I reject this.”
Wow. Hard core. But think about it…is it not true?? Why do we as mother’s lower our expectations and allow our kids (or other people for that matter) to treat us like that? Do we not deserve better? Do our children not need to learn how to treat us – which in turn influences how they treat their future spouses? Whenever I think I am being hard on my kids, I ask myself, do I really want them to accept the lowest common denominator? Or should I not teach them to expect more as they deserve more? I am trying to teach them their value – their infinite worth – so why should I undervalue my own?
I shared the story with my kids, so from now on I expect incredible birthdays….
She goes on to say “It’s too idealistic to expect children to do the right thing on their own”. They need to be taught the proper way of doing things -and sometimes that means letting them know (maybe not so harshly though?? Although sometimes that seems to be the only way to be taken seriously?!). We teach people how to treat us – so if we want to be treated well, we need to demand that. Of course, I think we can make a much better point by not acting so poorly in demanding that respect. But the main point is valuable I think.
So, when I heard the story of how disappointed these Moms were with Mother’s Day, this section of the book came to mind. And I still stand behind the fact that reading it was life changing for me.
I am pretty hard on my kids when it comes to special occasions: I have set the expectations for each occasion – and for each person. “Yes, you do need to do something for your brother’s birthday. I don’t care if you are not with us for her birthday, you still do something. No, you need to acknowledge both your Dad’s birthday and Father’s Day even though they sometimes fall on the same day.”
And you know what? My kids have lived up to those expectations.
Do they need reminding? Yes.
Do they sometimes need help? Yes.
Do they disappoint at times? Yes.
But they DO something. They know they are not expected to go out and buy something, or spends tons of money. But whatever they do HAS to take effort and it HAS to take thought. A card thrown together at the last minute doesn’t cut it.
However, to live up to those expectations, they need something else.
They need to see both Rob and I doing it for each other, and also doing it for those who mean something to us.
They are not witness to lavish gifts, or grand gesture (although occasionally they do see some pretty sweet gifts:). But they do see handmade cards, poems, CDs, photos, sketches. They do see telephone calls, emails, and texts. They do see special meals, cakes, chocolates, flowers, and outings to celebrate. They see real effort and thoughtfulness.
I’m hoping that high expectations, combined with example, will help shape my kids into thoughtful, considerate human beings, who will one day make very good partners (and attract very good partners:)
I’m hoping that they learn the infinite worth of each individual and that they expect to be treated with that same respect. We teach people how to treat us. And how they treat us can often be a reflection of how they feel we treat them.
(and yes, I know there is controversy surrounding setting expectations… don’t get me started on that. My experience so far is that low expectations brings low results; the opposite holds true too:) Aim high.