I spend a lot of time with my youngest child, Lia. Since becoming a full-time homemaker and enrolling the twins in UPK, she and I have hours of one-on-one time with each other. I love this time with her. I love when she grabs her favorite books, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? and The Tickle Tree, and climbs up on my “wap.” I’m thankful that she’s content with independent play while I exercise or work in the kitchen. Hearing her little voice say “aa-koo” when I give her something makes me smile every time. But she can also drive me crazy.
Lia is a high-spirited and strong-willed child. She likes to say “no” just for the sake of being contrary. She prefers to do things on her own terms. When she’s hungry or tired, she’s nearly inconsolable. Most days she doesn’t take a nap, but on the rare occasion it happens she wakes up miserable. It can be an exhausting cycle, day in and day out.
I was relaying this to my mom, yes, complaining about Lia’s occasional nastiness, when she said something that struck me: Lia expects certain things at certain times. She expects to be cuddled when she wakes up. She expects to eat when she’s hungry. She expects me to meet her needs, and desires, instantly. Lia isn’t thinking about actions and consequences or whether she’s acting appropriately. As a mom, it’s my responsibility to take care of her needs and to teach her about actions and consequences and appropriate behavior.
I ultimately know that this season will pass, and probably too quickly. In the meantime, perhaps I need to manage my expectations of her. Obedience is something that is learned, as is controlling your emotions so you aren’t nasty to other people. Maybe my two-year-old isn’t so bad after all. Maybe she’s just two.
I’ve thought about this a lot because I deal with this crazy kid (who is currently attempting to taste every color crayon) constantly. And I’ve realized that adults don’t always behave much differently when our expectations are not met. We may not cry and wail when we wake up from a nap, but we have higher expectations overall. When these expectations go unmet, it becomes a source of conflict.
Humans are emotional beings. I certainly am. When my kids aren’t treated well, I feel protective anger. If a friend repeatedly cancels on me, I feel betrayed. If I consistently fill in for other people, I feel taken advantage of. Criticism and complaining wear me down until I snap with agitation. Add to that the stress of budgeting my time and money, and adhering to that budget, and no wonder a glass of spilled milk puts me over the edge. I expect better.
Perhaps these feelings aren’t wrong, but I do wonder if the expectations are misplaced. No human can react perfectly all the time, and ultimately, most frustrations occur when someone didn’t handle something properly. When I expect perfect reactions and perfect relationships, I am going to be disappointed.
Because I struggle with selfishness, greed, and envy I know that I will always be in relationship with others who struggle as well. In this, conflict cannot be avoided. But in these past few weeks of reflection I have come to understand that I need to diligently uphold my end of the bargain. I must choose to make amends when I don’t act perfectly. I can choose to show grace when others disappoint me. And if perfection is really what I desire, then I need to spend more time immersing myself in Jesus and less time dwelling on the imperfections of other people.
Whether in marriage, friendship, and parenting, I know my relationships will benefit from managing my expectations. Of course, I will address harmful situations, but I believe that if I approach each one with more grace and the belief that others aren’t intentionally hurting me, then I will experience more of the good things.
And when my crazy Lia pushes me to the brink today, I will try to remember that her way of expressing her needs is appropriately two. My reaction should be that of a loving mom. Even if it means I need to pray for patience in each moment.
What expectations do you need to reset?