When I first had my son I can remember my mom telling me one of the most important things to remember when you have children is you are raising a tiny human and their thoughts, personality, likes and dislikes will differ from mine.
You are not perfect and your child won’t be either, when you place unnecessary expectations on them it will only lead to conflict. I have learned this is true in many facets of my life, placing unnecessary expectations on anyone will only leave you disappointed and while I do have some things I expect from people I try to set the expectations at a reasonable level.
I struggled with this when my son was first born, I had spent nine months thinking and planning how everything was going to be when he was born…I had unrealistic expectations. I figured out very quickly that things don’t always go as expected.
One thing I had planned and held high expectations for was that my son and I would be able to spend more time with my family. They live almost three hours away and I don’t get to see them as often as I would like, my younger sister had a son a few months before me and I was very excited for us to have our newborns together. The day were we leaving the hospital we discovered my son’s hatred of car seats. Any time he was placed in car seat he would scream bloody murder. He would start screaming when I set him in the car seat and he didn’t stop until he was out. I will give my son credit, he has an amazing set of lungs. When he was a baby and unhappy he could create this high pitched, brain-piercing scream that would almost burst my eardrums. I had expected him to love the car seat; all kids love car seats right? I mean you hear parents everywhere say their baby will only sleep in the car. I spent months trying every trick in the book to get my son to enjoy his car seat, pushing the expectation he should love it. Finally one day our pediatrician looked at me as I was asking for any other solutions, because nothing was working, and I said to him, “Well then what should we do? I have tried everything to fix this and nothing is working.” He looked at me, smiled and said, “There is nothing to fix because nothing is broken. Yes, your son hates his car seat but this is the reality of your situation. You can’t fix something that isn’t broken and over time he will probably grow to tolerate if not like his seat.”
At this point I had to change my expectation that my son would love his car seat and we could just jump in the car and go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted. I had anticipated a freedom to come and go as we pleased and I realized it wasn’t going to be that easy, I had to alter my expectation because nobody wants to see his or her child go through that every time you have to go in the car. So we adapted to our new reality, we took a three hour trip and turned it into a five hour trip, with a break half way and we would stay with my family for a week instead of a couple of days. Now at 19 months my son still dislikes the car seat but I could kiss the person who invented portable DVD players because it seems to calm him and make the car seat tolerable therefore we can take longer trips with a lot less crying from everyone.
As a parent I feel you walk a very fine line between guiding your children in to adulthood while letting them be who they are going to be and forcing them to conform to your expectations of who they should be. I hope this is something I get better at with time and practice but at least I am aware of what I’m trying to accomplish as parent. My son is absolutely perfect exactly the way he is. I’ve stopped placing unrealistic expectations on him and I have started striving for him to be happy because happy is much more fun than perfect anyway.
Christina Komives is sales manager for The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.