We have been avidly going through the TV series Breaking Bad these days, a show about an overqualified, and underpaid high school chem teacher who turns to making crystal meth in order to provide for his family when he is dead. One of the main characters gets shot and affects the nerves in his legs. Once it is clear that he is going to live, his wife asks the doctor when he will be able to walk. And the doctor says, “it is important to manage your expectations.”
For some reason, this phrase has been sticking in my head like the refrain of a Lady Gaga song for weeks.
Manage your expectations.
I don’t wanna.
It resonates in every walk of my life right now- at work, I must manage my expectations regarding the levels of maturity of the 12 to 17 set (very difficult actually. You want their actions to make sense and they so often don’t.)
In my own life. Right now I am looking at the goals I wrote for 2011 and posted on the wall in front of my desk so I won’t forget (yes, I am that sort of person. I like goals. So sue me). 2 out of 6 I managed, and one of them,”be able to run a marathon” I am including on a technicality. I got myself ready to run that stupid marathon. I just neglected to register for the thing. The other, submit twelve pieces this year, I finished in April and then stopped, which wasn’t the plan either. The one I really wanted to accomplish-finish a manuscript is so far from being done, if possible it is in the negative done. I am minus on that goal.
I expected better of myself.
And, the big one, the motherload (pun intended): as a parent. Motivated by my daughter’s new found academic motivation, and I suspect, by the baser need to keep up appearances at my work place as my daughter goes to the school where I work, I am resorting to my drill sergeant, fascist ways when it comes to studying and homework. Which is so completely unnecessary as my daughter does it, and indeed has always done her homework, without any prompting from me. Mostly she does quite well. Not at the top of the class but still grades that show she studied and understood the material. However, the mistakes she makes are mostly of the careless variety- in math she will forget to reduce her fractions. In geography she will neglect to answer one of the questions because she read it too fast.
I expect her to pay more attention. I expect her to do better.
Is that a bad thing?
I don’t know. I really don’t know. In one way, yes. I expect to get all of this stuff done and rarely do. However, without that expectation, the pressure I put on myself, I wouldn’t get anything done. As for my daughters, they know we expect them to have their homework done, and done well. I expect them to do their best in school- ahh.
Their best. That is the crux of the thing, where this whole expectation thing can go down the garburator like a soapy wedding ring on a recently weight-lossed finger (I do like my similes). Who determines what their best is? Can I employ the scientific method in determining this elusive quality? Am I taking into account their personality, their stage of brain development, the breakfast they ate in the morning?
Or am I doing what parents have always done and setting my expectations by using myself as a model. When I was your age I….fill in the blanks.
Not a nice realisation, is it?
I don’t know if it is possible to have no expectations as a parent. It is what allows us to do our job – which is to send them out in the world as competent, compassionate, critically-thinking citizens of the world (4 Cs!). What we can manage however, is where our expectations come from. I expect my children to do their best. I fervently hope that their best is better than mine.