I was reading a few of the entries in Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling the other day. I’ve read the book several times, but often go back and open to a random page just as a ‘refresher’. The entry that caught my attention was one about expectations. Sandra talked about how before she had kids, and then when her kids were infants, she just knew they would all be great readers and love literature and would all be musically inclined and play an instrument. Cut to almost 20 years later and although her kids read well, they are not particularly interested in, say, Shakespeare (one of her passions) or other literature. None of them play instruments or sing well; they listen to music on their iPods, but that’s about it. She talks about how she had to let go of her own expectations in order to embrace the things the kids were interested in.
I remember the day it struck me like lightening that I have a daughter who loves to organize and run things; parties, workplaces, employees. She loves it when we need to hire someone for our store. LOVES. IT. She combs over the applications, goes with me to the interviews and is very involved in the entire process. Planning parties makes her happy. It makes me tired. Do I wish she loved dance, like I do? Or was a great singer? Of course. But those are my passions. One day Maya said, “You know, I think I’d like to design clothes, but I wouldn’t want to have to sew them.” Which is classic Maya. She’ll do the set up, the design, the layout – and get someone else to put it all together.
Believe it or not this used to bother me. Because I can’t think of anything I’d find less interesting. Maybe working in a toll booth. I resisted seeing that she really enjoys herself when she is planning a party or reading resume’s, and so I should just let her do it and be happy about it!
Parents’ expectations are often borne of their own passions. If they happen to have a child who shares those passions, then they tend to take the credit for it. “See, if you expose and encourage your child to love singing and music, they’ll become wonderful musicians and appreciate the finer arts.” No, really you just got lucky. Woe to the child in such a family whose passions don’t coincide with the parents’. All too often they become the black sheep; the one who didn’t conform. The one who, instead of singing, liked to build car engines.
Rather than having expectations regarding our children, which often blind us to reality, we would be better served to cultivate our ability to observe our kids and really see them; realize they are their own people with their own passions, which may or may not coincide with our own. If parents can do that and acknowledge and encourage them in whatever they love to do, everyone will be the happier for it.