Expectations. They really trip me up some days. My “motherly” rosy picture is quite lovely, but the reality can be so very different. To make matters more complicated, my expectations are often the exact opposite of what my kids are in the mood for. And children also change and grow: what was a good idea last year is now the wrong size, shape and color for where my kids are at today.
Case in point.
I have taken my kids to the summer library program events for years. Chickens in the library? We are so there! Story time, concerts, you name it – we have gone. I was working a part-time job two summers ago, so we skipped the majority of the opportunities. However, this past summer I was home full time, and after summer VBS programs and field trips to water parks and the mountains, I was ready to dive right back into our cozy pattern of going to the library and getting a little culture.
Finally, we have a free day and Zumba is offered as a morning program at the library. I tell the kids, “We are going to a library program today!” My son eyes me suspiciously. “What program?” “Zumba,” I say with enthusiasm. “I don’t like Zumba,” he says sulkily. “How do you know?” I ask back cheerfully. “Because we did Zumba at school and I DON’T LIKE IT.” He is emphatic. “Well,” I counter, “We are still going to Zumba.”
My son is not impressed with my tough love parenting, and runs wailing to his room. He is in a dramatic phase.
My daughter looks up from her book. “I don’t like Zumba either.”
I don’t reply, and go take my shower.
Thirty minutes later, after a refreshing shower, I say, “Okay, time to go to the library!”
“We don’t want to do Zumba!” they both say.
I tell them to get in the car.
They are not pleased. I tell them to stop whining. By the time we arrive in the parking lot, I am very low on good attitude myself. But I power us through the library to the Zumba class and march them in. Both of them start to whine again, and I am exasperated. This is not what I pictured.
We don’t march into library programs with whiny kids. They are supposed to be grateful for this fantastic enrichment experience, and maybe even compliment me on my great parenting. But they don’t. Sigh. So I say quietly, “I am not happy with how you are behaving, but we will try this for a few minutes and then we can go look at books.” And then I walk away from them so that I am out of earshot for any follow up complaining they might throw my way. Also…they are better behaved with an audience.
The Zumba class starts. All of the kids stand up. Even though the flyer says for kids 4-11, and my kids are 8 and 10, they are obviously a head taller and couple of years older than the other children in the crowd.
My kids dutifully do the Zumba moves with a decent effort.
I dance behind them. We do one song, and they look at me with imploring eyes. I say we will stay for one more song. They do it, and then ask for a drink. We go get a drink and return to the class. I have them sit with me at the back and watch for a few minutes. It is so hard to let go of this dream I had for today…and of the phase that we have apparently grown out of. I look at the little four, five and six year olds jumping with enthusiasm, and then at my two sweet kids. They are growing up. They have moved on. I can’t keep them here.
I remind myself that my kids love the library. They love the books, the computers, picking out videos and wandering around. We have a routine – books first, then they can play on a computer, then they can pick out a video. Then it is time to check out and they blissfully read all the way home and usually don’t get out of the car for a good half hour after we arrive in the garage because they are lost in a book.
My expectations have to change with my kids.
We rocked this when they were younger. Now we have to go rock something else. And that is my job – to recognize that it is time to move on and find the next adventure with them. And to let them go when it is time.
So I smile at them. “Thanks for doing Zumba. Let’s go get books now.” I glance wistfully at the families shimmying and shaking together. We leave the room, and go to the book section. That routine is still the same, but I realize that it won’t be for long. In the not so distant future, my ten and twelve year-old will be too old for the books in the children’s section. We won’t hang out here as much. So I enjoy letting them pick books, play on the computer, pick a video and ride home lost in a new story.
The changing never stops. They change, and my expectations have to change, too. It is wonderful and scary and hard and never when I expect it. But it is moments like these that remind me to cherish it before the next season comes along.