“I can’t be in there,” I sat down hard, exasperated, glaring through the viewing window of the gym.
“Really?” my friend asked quizzically. “I’ve been to lots of parties here and usually the parents are allowed in the gym.”
“No, no, no…we are allowed to be in there, but ‘I‘ cannot be in there. My daughter will have no fun with me getting onto her for every little thing she does.”
It was a humble flag of surrender in a defining moment of inner struggle. I wanted my daughter to have fun and enjoy her friend’s birthday party, but I couldn’t stand watching her be sassy or cut in front of other kids or play rough or ignore the directions of the host. I had TRAINED her better! After six years you would think…ugh…
I just had to walk away.
“Yeah…it was so funny with our first child,” my friend carried on in her super calm, in-control voice that I’d always found kind of mysterious and otherworldly. “We had such high expectations of her! But now (four kids later) we realize how little they really are…”
“How little they really are…”
Her words poured wisdom and truth all over me like a shower… A shower of acid rain that ate away at my hard, confident, controlling outer shell.
The reality hit me hard. Do I have high expectations of my six-year-old? Absolutely I do. To be honest, I have higher expectation of her than I have of myself most days. I expect her to know right from wrong. I expect her to treat others the way she wants to be treated. I expect her to be kind to everyone. I expect her to communicate clearly when she needs something or is confused. I expect her to manage her emotions in a mature way. I expect her to keep her attitude in check. I expect her to do her very best at all of her responsibitilies. Basically I expect her to be a perfect little adult with the innocent heart of a child.
I’ve asked the impossible of her.
It’s great to have high expectations of our children. Don’t get me wrong. But high expectations without patient, loving training over a course of time is setting them up for certain failure. And I’ll be the first to admit that for all of the love and adoration I have for my precious offspring, my impossible expectations and impatience with their shortcomings is going to push one of us over the edge.
And it’s probably going to be me.
So I need these “aha” moments. Moments like this day where the truth hits and does its hard work on my heart and makes me want to be a better Mommy. A better teacher. A better adult. Doing the hard, grueling, moment-by-moment work of training up children — Not expecting! — just training.
There’s a Bible verse that says, “Train up a child in the way they should walk…” It’s a popular motto among Christian parents. We put it in our journals and write it on our nursery walls and pray it over our parenting. Well…sometimes I forget the “train” part (and regrettably I often forget the “child” part, too).
An Olympian trains for four years to run a ten-second race. You would think I could give my children at least a little more time and a little more training before I expect them to act like perfect adults…
Basically training sucks. And it’s hard work. And it takes a long time. But to achieve anything in life, the groundwork has to be done. So when it comes to my children, why do I so often lose sight of the end goal? Why do I forget that they are children who came into this world LITERALLY knowing NOTHING, looking to me every moment to patiently guide them and train them and (good grief) model for them how to function — nay, thrive — as an adult in the modern world. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years. Endurance. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
To quote a friend, “Whew! Sometimes I have to remind myself that she has only been on the planet for six years.”