The minute people learn you’re expecting a child, they are usually full of advice. Willing to share with you all of the ups and downs that come with parenthood. Unfortunately, some of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a parent are ones that no one ever warned me about. Right now I’m seriously struggling with my level of expectations and my eldest daughter’s lack of effort. Let’s just say they aren’t exactly in line with each other.
Because I’m not only her mother, but also her teacher, this is an obstacle that clearly needs to be overcome.
Some parents desire for their child to be the best at whatever they do. They want them to be the smartest in the class, the star athlete, or the most popular. I find nothing wrong with those parents or their expectations of their child to be the best. I just don’t happen to be one of them. Recently however, I have started to question whether my expectations for my children are higher than they should be.
My expectations have never been for them to be the best, but rather for them to do their best.
My oldest two are currently enrolled in dance classes, art classes, and swim lessons. I love that they enjoy these activities and I get that at 5 and 8, they are still young. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I get frustrated when I see them not trying their hardest, or when they rush through a project just to be finished. Not only do my husband and I pay money for these activities, but these are things they have chosen to do. I feel that if you’re going to take the time to do something, you should give it your all.
I can’t say I’m thrilled with how lackadaisical they can sometimes be when it comes to dance, swim, and art class. But when it comes to school, I don’t think there is anything that bothers me more than a lack of effort. Since we started homeschooling our oldest a year ago, this has become a major bone of contention for her and I.
Now I’m not only frustrated as her mother but also as her teacher.
When she was enrolled in public school, homework was a struggle all the time. She would bring home the work but couldn’t tell me what she was supposed to do with it. Most of the time there were no instructions, which in itself is frustrating, and then to have her not know how to do it only added to the frustration. As a mother I didn’t know if they went over the lesson in class for 5 minutes or 25 minutes. Was the expectation that they should know this lesson well, or should they still be struggling with it? Needless to say, I was usually left aggravated, she was left in tears, and we both felt horrible.
Because we now homeschool, we no longer have to deal with this issue. As her teacher, I know exactly what was taught and what she should know. I see her successes and her struggles.
Sadly, I think sometimes one of her biggest struggles is me and my expectations.
I remember when Madylyn, my oldest, was about 2 or 3 — she loved to color. She started like most children do, simply throwing down crayon anywhere and everywhere on the page. I knew that her creation was merely scribbles on paper, but to her it was a masterpiece. She was so proud and I always let her know how impressed I was. Before I knew it, she was filling entire coloring books in a day. At that point, I was no longer blown away by the random squiggles, or when she chose to color wildly outside the lines. I knew that her skills had grown and therefore so had my expectations.
Sometimes I worried that I would break her spirit if I told her I thought she could do better. In the end I’ve always chosen to be honest with her. I feel like if compliments are just handed out, regardless of how well the job is done, they end up losing their value.
Now she’s 8 and we’ve moved on from coloring books. I’m no longer just her mom that helps out with homework, but also the one assigning the lessons. Some days I think she forgets that I know what she’s capable of. Unfortunately for her, once a standard has been met there’s no going back.
I’ll be the first one to admit that sometimes I set the bar a little high, but when she puts in the effort she exceeds my expectations every time.
She is so smart and creative, I can’t imagine what she could accomplish if she really exerted herself. I’m not sure what the coming years will have in store for us, but I hope we can find a happy medium between her effort and my expectations.