As a parent to young children, doing things together like sitting in a restaurant can be nerve-wracking and unpredictable. If you are anything like me, you stick to the old faithfuls, the loud and slightly overcrowded ones (so that your kids add to the noise, rather than having them ‘be’ the noise).
People-watching is commonplace for me there. I look around at the families, unconsciously examining their table manners, complimenting their kids and feeling guilt-filled relief when someone is having a harder time than me. Let’s be clear about one thing here – the judgments I’m making in these moments, are of myself and the expectations I’ve set for my kids.
Do we have reasonable expectations?
We’ve all seen the families with the “perfect” kids, where no one ends up under the table, they’re eating with their fork and saving half of their chocolate milk for after they eat.
If that is you and your kids, kudos. But that’s not me and mine. And for the longest time, it left me with thoughts like, “why can’t you do that?”
“Why won’t you listen the first time?”
“When I was your age, I had 10 times the responsibility that you do.”
“Can you stop that?”
These sound worse when you lump them together. I don’t say them one after another like this, and most often they remain thoughts in my head. But I am guilty of pulling one out in a moment of frustration.
Reasonable wouldn’t be the way I would describe these. These remarks break onto the surface when I am in an entirely UNreasonable state of mind.
So, what’s reasonable? After welcoming twins, our family count went from the “perfect” family of four to a slightly-oversized family of six and I realized something (so simple) that changed my approach to parenting –
Our children are truly one-of-a-kind.
Maybe that’s something you’ve heard before. But now, for me, this ideal has been highlighted over and over again. I hadn’t anticipated that I would need to parent each of my children a little differently.
In setting expectations, keep this in mind. You know your child. But, do you know where they are at and what they can do? Figure out how to meet them where they are, and create an achievable “next step” for them to strive towards.
Our kids ultimately want to make us proud and the pressure they feel to succeed is real. Know any adults that reflect on their childhood with, “nothing I did was ever good enough for my parents”? If our expectations are met with feelings of frustration or anxiety- on our part or theirs, consider adjusting the expectation next time, even if only slightly.
We can’t change overnight.
Be patient with yourself. Recently, I kept noticing my son and I continually butting-heads. It wasn’t until we were visiting some friends, that they noticed, “wow, where did the sarcastic humour come from?” I had no idea. All this time, he had been trying to make me laugh and I had been missing it, correcting his behaviour – no wonder we weren’t getting along.
Setting reasonable expectations for my kids and navigating this new parent “epiphany” is something that I will have to practice every day. But it is so worth it. Becoming more than “maintaining our image” in a restaurant, we are teaching our kids how to set realistic goals for themselves, start to understand their capacity and ultimately learn to help themselves find success, however that may look to them.
Lindsay Fricker is a mom of four – two plus twins. Kindergarten teacher by day, Lindsay enjoys helping others find ways to navigate the ugly parts of parenting, while keeping their sanity and positively supporting their children. You can read more from Lindsay here or follow her on Instagram @serendipity.six.