Managing expectations

I had coffee with two old friends the other day, one of whom I hadn’t seen in seven years. She is headteacher of a successful, indeed outstanding, school in Kent and despite this she looked great. She had just returned from three weeks in Spain with her partner – another teacher- staying a week in paradors (I know what they are now) and two weeks in a villa. They had done a lot of walking, (not as much as me ;)), and felt replenished. It had taken the best part of five weeks holiday to reset to zero so to speak, such was their commitment to the job.

Much heated debate could now incur about teachers and their timetables and their whingeing and ‘proper jobs’ etc but the bottom line is they do it and we don’t and we don’t want to, otherwise we would. It’s a pretty thankless task facing thirty kids, their parents, the demands of an ever-changing National Curriculum and so on. But that’s not my point. My point is, and I’ll be brief, this couples’ children, slightly younger than mine but still adults, are nothing like their parents. Furthermore they are nothing like the parents expected them to be. The parents are ambitious and fit and dedicated. Their kids are content to mosey along in dead end jobs so long as they have enough to pay the rent and buy beer. One is very overweight and the other represented his college at poker. He never lost but that’s not the point. In our day (yawn) poker playing was not a legitimate leisure activity and had I not known the family personally I would have formed a negative impression of the children.

This is all about me and my prejudices. My expectations. The last time I saw these kids they were fresh faced and in short trousers. Not quite, but they still did what their parents told them – lots of healthy outdoor pursuits and homework handed in on time. I expected them to carry on in the same vein and be mini versions of their uber successful parents. They aren’t.

If we are lucky enough to have children we (many of us, OK, I did) place an enormous burden of expectation on them. The only time we want them to be normal is as the emerge form the womb. From then on we are watching to see that they reach their milestones and achieve the required level in literacy, pass their GCSEs, driving test etc etc And their personal lives are subject to scrutiny as well. We want them to be happy and many of us know they should be happy in their own way but we have an idea how to make that happen – our way, the way we did things.

I read that expectations are ‘resentments under cultivation’. John, the wise old bunny, calls them ‘disappointment waiting to happen’.

My mum is a fine friend to many people and walks the extra mile for them. She is thoughtful and considerate and can’t understand when some other people don’t behave in like fashion. They don’t and it is hurtful. How do you deal with that? By being true to your self and not expecting quid pro quo? It’s tough. But wise. I find it takes constant monitoring of my expectations to allow people and events to unfold and take their own shape. Letting go of my shoulds-template for how things ‘should’ be. Then I am free and so are they.

Another swimming photo. That little dot of flesh is John, yes he’s crazy for sea swimming too now. For some reason I can’t make the picture bigger!

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