Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Musings - Expectations

A few weeks ago, I was stunned to discover that someone I hold affection for charged me with the crime of "humiliating" my children (they added other charges, but this is the one that hit me the hardest).  Seriously, I was floored and confused.  These individuals took it upon themselves to contact my husband OVERSEAS to make sure he knew what they thought about my parenting methods...that is right, their opinion wasn't brought to me directly.  Instead, it was communicated to someone who is 12,000 miles from home and powerless to do anything about it.   I heard about it from Superman!  Furthermore, the charge was brought by people who have had very little exposure to my typical daily life or that of my children and, yet, felt that the sliver they'd seen was enough from which to make such a judgment. 

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 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?


jen@odbt said...

Wow. I don't even know what to say. I cannot believe someone had the gall to do this especially without talking to you first. I have the highest expectations for my kids and if they are not behaving they will hear it from me and/or their dad without question. That is our responsibility. We owe it to our children and to society to raise responsible citizens.

loveaphid said...

I got your back sis! Sorry this still stings so much!

Anonymous said...

The expectations I set for my daughter are only too high in the eyes of others.

2003beachbunch said...

So sorry that happened. Esp to call your hubby about it instead of coming to you. Hope all is well now!

OmnivorousReader said...

Okay I must say that I'm all for being able to cover your children on your insurance until 27 - it gives flexibility to recent college grads to take lower end (uninsured) jobs or to spend time in the Peace Corp, etc....

However, I believe if you are upset with someone, you should tell them, not their husband! And many studies show that unearned self-esteem creates kids without morals. So keep on doing it the way you are; your kids are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Glad they are not following me around. My kids are 16 months apart. The oldest when he was smaller had a developmental delay. (Speech, not learning) He has outgrown mainly because I did push him harder to do what he needed to do and he is now a Sophomore in college.
But when they were 3 and 4, their attention span and my patience often wore out in Walmart by aisle 8. Every single time. I do not believe in beating children, but I do believe three firm pops on a bottom can get their attention so I can discipline, especially when they are that old. I would try and try my usual methods of discipline, but by aisle 8, it was always obvious that I was going to have to set an example, if I was going to finish shopping for the family. So almost every time we went, on aisle 8, the kids would get a spanking. One day they were so bad, I was at my wits end and I did the customary spanking. Two aisles over, I heard clapping. LOL But at the end of the aisle I saw a lady who wasn't happy. She took off to the front of the building and I am assuming the manager's office. No one ever came, but I was prepared to do battle. I gave each child three firm pops on their bottom ends, that God well padded for the purpose. Then I explained that they knew my expectations in the grocery store and their behavior was unacceptable and I would not put up with it. Then I told them I loved them very much and each got a hug. The lady from two aisle over came to see the momma brave enough to spank in public and she saw the rest of the communication and she thanked me for the way I handled them. (they are exactly the same size and most people assume they are twins) They were perfect the rest of the time and we were there for about 2 hours.
It wasn't long before I no longer needed aisle 8 and one day #2 said Momma how come you never spank us in aisle 8 any more? I miss it. LOL Out of the mouths of babes. I think she missed the part that came after where I told her I loved her, so from them on when we got to aisle 8, I stopped shopping, reminded them of my expectations and told them I loved them. I constantly got praise from then on on how well behaved they were in the store from then on. Parenting is hard work. That's why so many people today don't want to do it. I am proud to say at 19, 18 and 12 my children still get parented. The older two are starting to want and get more independence and we are embracing that, but we are still their parents and will offer sage advice until we die.

P. S. Would have loved to been in the manager's office when they told that lady to mind her own business. I suggest you and Superman tell these people to do the same.

CaliGirl said...

OMG! I just had time to sit and read this post. I'm speechless. Really? Isn't it amazing that people actually mistake parenting for meanness? I've been called a mean mom before (most often from my own kids, I'm sure). Bring it on. I can take it (right?!). But, to call S who can't even do anything about it...unforgiveable! Well, Dev didn't save Buttercup just so she could be a dependent adult...she saved her so she could go on to greatness in this world. And, I'd say she has pretty darn good role models in her brothers, even if poor J is picked on. LOL
Keep up the good work, girlie...I miss you!