Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Expectations and Your Kids

For six weeks I took the boys to a toddler music class at a local community center.  They would get to use musical instruments, color, build blocks and play catch during classical music, jump and dance around.  It was a lot of fun, and the best part of all, from the perspective of a parent, there were no requirements for participation.  Sometimes Baxter would join in and other times he would look out the window.  Atticus would use an instrument, then dance a little, then sit in my lap.  And this was true of all the other kids there too.

For the last class, our regular instructor wasn't there, so we had a substitute and I don't think that this person had ever taught this particular class before.  Without ever specifically saying anything, this person changed the entire dynamic of the class.

Without words, this instructor communicated to the moms that participation was now necessary by all children.  This not only put more stress on the kids, it put loads of stress on the moms.  There was a sense of frustration in the room that had never been there before, as mom after mom tried to rein her kid(s) in, who up until that day was allowed to roam free.  It's hard to explain, especially to someone who isn't a parent, but there's this looming expectation to present children who are well behaved.  Let's be honest, every parent wants that, although we don't always get it.

As a stay at home mom, sometimes this feeling can be almost overwhelming.  Like my job is to raise "good" children, and if I don't, then I have failed at the only thing I was responsible for.  I know this is absolutely false, but when the only thing people tend to look at when judging the job your doing as a stay at home mom are your kids, it's hard not to feel pressure.

In an instant, I went from loving this little music class to really hating the way I was feeling during it.  I hate that something so simple as someone's expectations can completely alter your attitude.  And it's just not in a music class, it's in the store, at the mall or even at the park.  Our culture places a great deal of value on good behavior, whether the child is 1, 2, 5, or 10.  And if your child doesn't meet these expectations, even if it's for a good reason, the parent is showered with looks from everyone around, parents or not, that can range from disgust, to pity to even anger.

Having good manners and being well behaved is important, but sometimes a little grace can go a long way.  So, if you ever encounter a parent who may not have the most well behaved children, maybe try to have a little extra patience.  It may just help turn their day around.

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