Expectations: In the case of uncertainty, expectation is what is considered the most likely to happen. An expectation, which is a belief that is centered on the future, may or may not be realistic. A less advantageous result gives rise to the emotion of disappointment. (Wikipedia)
I’ve worked out why I dislike softplay so much. I don’t dislike children, far from it. I’m a mum of three, and when I’m at work I am a primary school teacher. I love children; they are my passion. But what I find frustrating (especially at softplay) are the many differing expectations other parents have of their child’s behavior. And how no one’s expectations seem to be as high as mine!
It is fair to say that I have high expectations, both of myself and of others. I expect a thank you when I let a car out, or when I wait and hold a door open for someone. (I rarely get one) But is it too much to expect parents to at least partially supervise their children at a softplay? To expect them to follow the rules? Be considerate? Maybe it’s my problem and something I need to just let go of, but quite honestly it annoys me when I see children who are say, over the age of four (usually by quite a bit) in the section designed for the under fours. Often with little respect for the equipment, or said under fours. (And yes in case you’re wondering, I am one of those mums who won’t let her children climb UP the slide!) It’s not the children’s fault, they are rightly absorbed in their own world of fun, but parents often seem to turn a blind eye to their child’s behavior or, in many cases, aren’t even keeping an eye on their children at all.
There have been many incidents I have witnessed this week where I have been left shocked, and thinking about the different expectations people have of themselves as parents, and of their children. One such incident was on a train, where a clearly harassed mother loudly told her screaming, ditressed daughter (who couldn’t have been more than five) to ‘f*** off.’ And another, where a mum told her child that no, she couldn’t play on the slide as she was disgusting because she had wet herself. The mum sat looking at her phone, not even attempting to clean or change her child, while the child sat crying, attempting to comfort herself.
It made me think. Do some people not have a natural parenting instinct (I find this hard to believe), or did they expect parenting to be easier than it is? Did they expect their children to behave without leading by example? Did they expect them to comply without supporting and loving them along the way?
And where do these expectations come from? Our parents, and our parent’s parents? Or social media and parenting books? Buzzwords, trends and manuals don’t help our expectations of parenthood. As I’ve said before, guilt and anxiety are intrinsic parts of being a parent, and sadly I think these buzzwords, trends and manuals, and the people behind them, feed on those emotions and our desperate want and need to do what’s best for our children. They can lead us to expect that our babies will sleep through the night from six weeks. (er, hello…I’m 36 and still don’t sleep through the night) They set expectations we didn’t know existed. Or indeed need to exist at all.
Expectations can be dangerous. As a parent we can set ourselves up to fail or be disappointed. These high expectations are partly what led to my post-natal depression. (Aside from the massive chemical and hormonal imbalance in my brain) I was never going to meet my expectations as a mother, and was inevitably setting myself up to fail. (More on that in Part 2) And on another level it can be dangerous for our children. As a teacher I have seen countless parents who have expected their children to be more intelligent than they are. Expected them to do better than they do. And refuse to accept them for who they are. You can imagine how these children feel.
Of course expectations aren’t all bad. When something unexpected happens it can be a wonderful surprise. A fantastic moment, which reaffirms your self-belief, and bonds you closer to your children. When our expectations are exceeded it can undoubtedly bring untold joy.
So…do I perhaps expect too much? And is this why I am often left frustrated and disappointed?
I expect so!!!
Is parenting how you expected it to be, or has it exceeded your expectations?