What Do You Expect?
Have you ever told your children to do something and their understanding of what was supposed to be done was different from yours? Did you feel frustrated?
For example: Let’s say that I told my children to fold the towels and put them away. Then later, when I looked into the linen closet, I grunted and started to mumble to myself about it. Why? The towels were not rolled into balls and thrown into the linen closet but had been folded and put where they were supposed to be, as requested.
If you are anything like I am, frustration would happen, because I would see folded towels that were not perfectly matched at the corners, nor perfectly stacked, one on top of the other. In other words, it wouldn’t have been done exactly as I wanted it done. Hmmm…
Last fall, my family and I participated in a community service project as part of the church where we are members. My children and I volunteered to serve at a bus barn for the local school district. We were supposed to sweep the busses and clean the windows.
My 11-year old declared that she wanted to have a turn at sweeping, so I let her. As I watched her, I reminded her that a broom does work the same way as a Swiffer dry mop does. She made adjustments, but I kept making comments about how she was doing the job, and they weren’t positive comments.
A few minutes later, she told me that she didn’t want to sweep anymore. At that moment, I could not understand why, because she was initially so excited about doing it. I told her that she’d have to give a good reason why she should switch back to cleaning the windows before I allowed her to do so. Looking at me apprehensively, she quietly said, “Mom, you keep getting on to me.”
Completely oblivious to what I’d just done, I grumbled that it was because she didn’t want to be corrected. She continued to help but did not sweep anymore. It still hadn’t clicked for me.
On a totally different subject that evening, I asked my husband a question, since I know he’ll give a truthful, yet gentle answer. Part of what he said was that I’m too critical of myself, that if I don’t do something “perfectly,” I tend to give up and do something else.
Oh my goodness! It was then that the Holy Spirit convicted me. That’s when “the light bulb turned on” in my head! I realized that that’s exactly what I’d done to our daughter that morning, and it drained all the joy she had for serving in that area. I wanted to crawl under the nearest rock!!
I felt so ashamed of myself. That certainly was not my intention, yet that’s exactly what happened. I went to her in tears to apologize with specificity for what I’d done and to ask her for forgiveness, which she graciously granted. I also asked her if she’d help me to do better, to which she smiled and gave a big hug.
Without even being aware of what I was doing, I was imposing perfectionism onto my daughter. Who could live up to that?? Not once did I applaud her effort, and she really did try hard. I just continued to let her know that she was falling short of my expectations. That was some message to send, especially during a community outreach event. No more! That attitude of mine had to change!
What do I expect now when my children have an assignment, whether it’s homework, chores, or serving others in our community? Simply put, it’s their best effort. Respect and kindness are understood. They have my permission to expect the same from me.
I’m so grateful for forgiveness, so grateful for the opportunity to be a mom, and so grateful for the chance to learn and grow every day. Goodbye, Perfectionism. You are no longer welcome here!
How about you: What do YOU expect?