Out With Expectation
This morning I was sitting in my chair in my little corner of my office, journaling. Sometimes I just randomly write down my thoughts and other times I puzzle through things that are bothering me. Today, it was the latter. I was trying to figure out why I’d been so frustrated and angry and disappointed and upset lately (yes, I know, I sound like I’ve just been a ton o’ fun, well, here’s a shocker: I haven’t).
This morning I was going through all the things that I’d been promised, assured of, or even hoped for, that I knew were never going to happen. Yes, I was wallowing in self-pity, but I was upset. No, disappointed, because I’d gotten my hopes up for things that I knew just weren’t going to happen. Things that I’d now either have to figure out how to do myself (in some cases, a long shot but not impossible) or just give up on entirely.
So then, I asked myself. If these were things that I cannot fix or change or build or adjust, if these things I wanted were outside my power to bring to fruition, did I want to sit here and let it make me miserable or did I want to figure out a way to move on from it. I was putting all my eggs in someone else’s basket waiting for them to do it for me instead of seeing what was in my own basket and I was expecting them to do what I wanted them to with their eggs, not what they were capable fo doing.
And that was my mistake. I had put my own expectations on them. I was angry because other people were not behaving how I had expected them to behave because they didn’t live up to my demands, I was then upset.
I was being a pouty, whiny, jerk.
My expectations for them did not coincide with their expectations for them and the result was my upset. And, well, who the hell am I to put expectations of behavior on other people?
Now, you say, we all need others to treat us properly, right? We can’t put up with disregard, disrespect, and so forth. And that is true. But what we are willing to accept and tolerate versus what we expect are two different things.
Take my son, for instance. I was angry with him because I had entrusted him with a task yesterday, taking care of an expensive item, to prove himself responsible. He had needed it so I let him prove himself. Well, today, he fell short. And he lied about it. And my first reaction was to get angry and try to force him to see things my way and change his behavior and really feel bad for what he did.
I expected him to do something I wanted him to do, not what he wanted to do. And because he did not live up to my expectations, I was angry.
And therein lies my arrogance, my self-absorption, my mistake. He is his own person and should never have to live up to my expectations, the expectations I force upon him. If he wants to be responsible, if he wants to behave in a way that makes himself proud, he has to live up to his own expectations. Not mine. Doing what I want him to do only gives me the power to be proud of him or disappointed in him. And that’s not what I want. I want him to be proud of himself. I want him to behave in a way that he knows is good and right and all that according to his own moral compass, his own truth.
My standards of right and wrong might be different than his. So, not only am I expecting him to behave how I want him to, expecting him to value things the same way I do, but I am also expecting him to live according to my moral code, my ethics, my beliefs. Not his own.
Yesterday, I received a letter from my daughter’s dance program kicking her out of the program. Not because of anything she did, but because I had made a post to social media concerning their, shall we say, less-than-professional behavior. The post came at the end of three years of ill-treatment at the hands of the teachers and the managers towards my daughter.
Let me repeat that: The post came at the end of three years of ill-treatment at the hands of the teachers and managers towards my daughter.
What the hell is wrong with me?
Here is what is wrong with me: I had expected their behavior to be different, to change. I had expected them to treat all the children in the class equally and fairly and, here’s a stretch, kindly. And really, wouldn’t anyone expect their child to be treated with respect in a program geared for children?
But that is not always what happens. After my post, I received many, many responses from others who had experienced the same treatment. Some from the same program, but many from other programs; soccer, hockey, volleyball, and more. It would seem many good kids had been made the target of their coach or instructor’s bruised egos, immaturity, cruelty, ignorance, failed childhood hopes and dreams? I’m not sure what it is and it doesn’t matter. What matters is the children become the target of their issues.
We expect that people will treat our children, or anyone’s children, kindly and respectfully. But here’s the thing. No one is capable to working beyond their own limitations and issues and egos. If my ego is so bruised that I am terribly fearful of any criticism, confrontation, or confident child, I am not capable of behaving rationaly.
I can bring this back to my son. I had expected him to behave a certain way and when he didn’t, I took it personally. I had failed and it was my job to make him into a good kid. Just like my daughter. I didn’t do anything unreasonable, only what a supportive parent would do. I stood up for her because that is my job and I took it as a personal attack when they didn’t apologize or change or do something about it.
But it was not her teacher’s job to change their behavior. It was not the management’s job to insist upon better behavior. It was not their job to live up to my expectations. They can only live up to theirs and my huge mistake, from the very beginning, was expecting them to behave as I wanted them to. It was not up to me to make them see the error of their ways and change, even if my intentions were good, even if I thought I was fighting for all the girls who’d been mistreated in that program. No one likes being judged and told they are wrong, and that is what I did. Here I thought I was fighting for my daughter but in reality, I was letting my ego and judgment get in the way.
I have no right to expect anything out of anyone. It is only up to me to choose how I will react to the situation. As far as I was concerned, I thought I had two choices; to either lie down and teach my daughter to simply put up with cruelty, or, to stand up for her and show her not to allow others to treat her badly.
I should have taught her to walk away. I should have taught her that she cannot control others or force them to behave how she wants them to. I should have taught her, through my own actions, that when a person cannot show compassion or empathy, it is not up to us to make them see the error of their ways, but to love ourselves enough to remove ourselves from such a person, from such a situation. I should have shown her that it was not up to me to expect better from them, but to expect better from myself.
This whole situation has taught me so much and for that, I am incredibly grateful. I am grateful that I can now see the arrogance and the judgment and the confrontation that was disguised as “fighting for our rights.” I am incredibly grateful that I can let go of expectation of others and begin to expect more from myself. Because ultimately, that is the only behavior of which we have any control; our own.
From now on I will see others, including my family, my husband, my children, teachers, community members, strangers, from where they are at. Not from where I am at. And from there I will make choices on how I want to behave and respond, not on how I want them to behave. And hopefully my children will see that and do the same. Hopefully they will go through the world with the kind of compassion that can only come with accepting others instead of making demands of them. And when they are hurt or mistreated, I hope they can stand up for themselves by walking away, by saying, “I cannot accept this because I love myself too much,” without judgement, without ego getting in the way.