For some reason, I woke up thinking about my parents this morning. Not completely sure why but what came to mind were their expectations of me and my siblings. My younger sister, younger brother and I were taught the religious concept of marriage before kids and it was pressed into us that we should adhere to it no matter what. My parents were married at ages 27 & 28 and then immediately had me so it was not as if they avoided their own advice to us. My husband and I married at 21 but were never able to reproduce until 29 with our angel baby and then again with our rainbow baby, Bordeaux, at age 30. So although it was not my parents’ expectation of me to get married at such an early age, I did fulfill their expectation of not having children until marriage.
The thought I had this morning further expanded itself to the current statuses of my siblings. Neither are married nor do they have children. At this time, it does mean that it is only me with the grandchild and trust me, they want more. That is directly from the expectation of our parents. However, the older we all get, the less opportunity we’ll have to continue having children (barring adoption) and the less opportunity my siblings would want to have children of their own. Looking at it from the outside, one can see how parental expectations can directly influence the action of their child/children. In some ways, this can be wonderful. The expectation could help the child structure their lives in a way that such a request could be easy to fulfill in time. However, it could also leave a child wondering if they would disappoint the parent should they not accomplish the hope bestowed upon them.
As parents, it is a fine line between allowing the child to develop on their own and structuring the way they develop because each action taken, whether by the child or by the parent, can determine how the future is spent. Parents do not want their child dependent on them forever and children would rather make their own decisions about what to do in any given situation. When the two agree, everything is easy. A great example of this is me getting married at 21. My parents had rather me get my degree than for me to get married but they were (and still are) very happy with my decision to marry. So that was an easy expectation for me to fulfill. However, when the parent/child relationship is tested by two different expectations, it can lead to resentment and unsatisfactory results.
An example of this would be when it was time for me to go off to college. I wanted to go to UCLA and my parents wanted me to stay in-state and go to a “Christian” college. I agreed to stay in-state but I didn’t want to go to “Christian” college. They entertained my desire to go to University of Memphis but quickly dismissed it when the tour guide mentioned co-ed dorms. I wound up going to that “Christian” college only because they were paying for it but I resented them and produced unsatisfactory results because it wasn’t where I wanted to go for schooling. I know, I know. I sound ungrateful but one doesn’t go to the bar for a ball of yarn, do they? When I wanted to become an international business attorney, learning business at a business college sounds ideal. However, I wanted to become something else. What I wanted to become, I wasn’t sure but what I was certain of is that I had to be away from my parents to do it. They didn’t get that because their expectation of me was different than my own. The result: I wound up dropping out of college and attending Hard Knock Life University, picking up tools and skills along the way that has developed me into the person I am today. I still have yet to accomplish getting a degree and with today’s economy, I’m not sure if it would be wise to do it knowing that the degree I get will not match in salary what I have paid out to receive it. Will this knowledge stop me from encouraging my child to go to college? Certainly not but I will say that it does help me to approach it as an option instead of an expectation.
If anything, my parents’ expectations of me and my siblings have helped me greatly in the rearing of my child as it has made me expect less of her and has made me want her to expect more of herself and understand why she should believe in herself with all her undertakings. She is given more options and is allowed to choose for herself. However, she is also made to endure the consequences of her decision. If my husband and I pushed our expectations onto our child always, we’d never get the independent, confident, positive, self-relying child we have today – and by the way, she’s only 4. Imagine the woman she could be when she’s in her thirties!
Until next time, consider your expectations and why they have become such in your life. Is it because of your nature or because of how you were nurtured? Are you living for self-fulfillment and happiness or for the happiness of others? Whatever you do, make sure the expectation allows you to be healthy, happy, loving and whole. The person with all of those qualities achieves far more than what they have been expected (by others or themselves) to do and with more zeal than ever imagined.