Dashing Expectations

My dad wanted me to be a lawyer. I got good grades and seemed predisposed to a sensible occupation, but I just couldn’t get excited about law. What I really would have liked to do was “commercial art,” as it was called in those days, but my dad convinced me that art was a risky career choice, so I decided to go to a military academy instead. I don’t regret that decision, because it broadened my horizons, and led to great adventures and friendships. But here I am again, reading typography books for fun and pining over those “Where Women Create” magazines. The trouble is, I feel like I lost my creativity somewhere back at the Academy, and I have to get it back.

In 2006, I started taking “New Media Arts” courses from my local community college and it was wonderful – like coming alive again. I took drawing, graphic design, digital art, art history, and some other courses before my schedule imploded. It’s hard to go back to school while homeschooling three kids! The kids felt like I had abandoned them, and my husband couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to take typography. That’s OK, because I believe there is a time for everything, and they needed me then.

Our lives are full of expectations, from ourselves and others. We all push and pull on each other, unconsciously sharing our fears, hopes, disappointments and habits. I’ve tried very hard not to impose expectations on my kids, but I know I do anyway. Whenever I give advice, I’m influencing them to do something the way I would do it, or the way I think would work best for them. Is it possible to not give advice to children? I doubt it, but I do believe that less advice is best.

Have you ever known someone who not only gave you unsolicited advice, but had a firm conviction you should follow that advice? It’s very uncomfortable, because if you don’t agree, the other person may be insulted or angry or put up an argument. It won’t take long before you avoid that person’s advice at all costs, or perhaps instinctively rebel from it. That’s even more uncomfortable. Have you ever found yourself doing the same thing though – perhaps with your kids?

What if we never offered unsolicited advice? And if someone did ask for our opinion, we simply offered it with no expectations attached? This takes a lot of trust, and self-awareness. We have to believe that our kids are inherently capable, though they will make mistakes (just like we do). We have to know that our kids do not belong to us, and the fact that they choose differently doesn’t make our choices wrong. This might be a hard switch to make, especially if we are used to other people laying expectations on us. We have to undo all the phony connections that are based on ego (the thinking self), and simply be ourselves.

I still struggle with how much to give in to my family and how much to hold my own. I try not to expect anything in particular from my kids, but I cannot shake the expectation that they will always be wonderful. My dad does the same for me, even though I never became a lawyer.

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