Monday, August 9, 2010
Monday Musings - Expectations
Did I mention I was stunned? Seriously stunned. After I got over being offended and feeling attacked, betrayed, and defensive, I took a deep breath and tried to figure what the h*** was going on. I began by asking people who do spend a lot of time with me and my children in varied settings and circumstances if they, too, observed that I humiliate my children. Why? Why would I put such a question out there for all to answer? While I obviously don't feel I humiliate my children and I find the idea distressful, I was willing to put myself out there to solicit feedback from friends and family just in case I was wrong. Just in case I was no longer viewing my own life with any clarity.
Not one person I asked (and I asked a lot of people because I was so concerned about the charge leveled against me) thought there was even a shred of validity to the claim. (Trust me...I asked people who would be more than willing to say such things to my face and no one had any idea where I came up with such an idea.) Okay, then. I breathed a little deeper. Then virtually all of them asked the same question: What did you do to these people that would make them attack you so boldly? The question I'd asked them was so absurd, in their estimation, that it was clear to them I was being targeted by these people for some other crime. Since I couldn't begin to guess, I let that part go.
Still, I had a mystery to solve. I asked Valiant. Do you have any idea what these people might be talking about? Nope. I asked Superman again. Any other details you can give me? An example cited to support the claim, perhaps? Bingo!
It turns out I corrected Valiant, my 14-year old, in front of these people and I wasn't gentle and kind. There it was...I knew roughly what had happened. I maintained my high expectations for Valiant despite the fact that there were witnesses. I did not humiliate him, but I did call him on behavior that was beneath the expectations he has for himself, as well as the expectations I have for him. There it was...I parented my son with no regard to witnesses.
I called my son on his unacceptable actions (I'd tell you what they were, but neither Valiant nor I can remember and Superman didn't get the specifics). Dumping the trash, scooping the poop, math, typing, spelling, some other chore...these are the commitments my son shirks. I'm sure Valiant didn't like it. I'm sure he felt embarrassed to be called on his behavior. I'm also sure he felt ashamed of himself for not doing whatever it was he was supposed to do. So many people aren't doing the job themselves that these people don't recognize parenting when they actually see it. How sad is that?
My job, as I see it, is to raise capable adults. My job is not raise adult-sized children who will NOT be able to support themselves and will be living at home when they're 30. My job is to raise children who know how to judge for themselves whether or not they are meeting expectations and will be able to change their behavior accordingly.
Furthermore, I expect Valiant to grow up to be a MAN, not just a male. That means I expect Valiant to live a life in which his word is his bond. Not living up to his word even with his mother should not be acceptable to him, let alone anyone else.
We live in a society wherein the expectations for individual behavior and responsibility, let alone those we have for our children, are so low as to be non-existent. We have "adult" children who never leave their parents' homes, even if they move out for a little while, they come back or continue to get extra "help" from Mommy and Daddy. (Think I'm harsh? Even the new healthcare law has a provision for us to provide health insurance to our "children" until they are 26 years old because it is not "fair" to expect them to provide for themselves!!) We have mothers who are constantly making excuses as to why little Tommy can't be held responsible for his own actions and fathers who are willing to give up the fight to parent their own children. We have babies for whom all financial support comes from the tax-payers because it is not "fair" to expect their parents to step up to the plate and actually act responsibly. In short, our societal expectations are so low that it is no wonder I was condemned as "humiliating" my child(ren) because I actually acted like a parent. I actually have expectations for their behavior and I stand by those expectations.
I stand firm that expectations matter. I'd rather have my children come back to me and say that my expectations for them were too high than to have them come back to me and ask me why I didn't think they were good enough to reach the peak. Think expectations don't matter? Wes Moore thinks you're wrong and has an amazing example to prove it. The Other Wes Moore: Two boys in the same horrible circumstances...one was raised with the expectation that he could and would do more and one was raised that circumstances were too much for him to transcend. Guess which one surpassed all expectations?
As you can imagine, Superman and I have had numerous conversations since the charges were leveled against me. Superman has also had numerous conversations with our children when I'm not around, just to be certain I'm not hiding anything. He still feels confident that his family is well, but his last few weeks have been more stressful than necessary. I think it is really sad that this element of watchfulness has been added to our lives. I wish I could say I'm not angry anymore, but I'd be lying. I'm still feeling angry, hurt, betrayed, and disappointed.
So, what do you think? Do you have high expectations for your children or do you think we're too hard on kids as it is?