Last night I had a frustrating “conversation” with a stranger on Facebook. I don’t know why I let myself get sucked into this trap once again, but this conversation involved “advanced maternal age” and that little thing I like to talk about a lot: Down syndrome. Therefore, it was pretty much guaranteed that I was going to get my panties in a bundle and try to convince a stranger that Down syndrome is not the end of the world. In the end I’m sure I left this stranger none the wiser, but in the midst of the banter, I clarified (yet again) my own internal battle. I call it EXPECTATIONS.
You see, while I was arguing my point, I was talking around “expectations.” Any of us – regardless of age – EXPECT that we will have a typical and healthy baby. We EXPECT that our typical and healthy babies will always be that way. And we EXPECT that we will wake up with an insurmountable list of things to do and conquer it with a baby on our hip and a coffee turned cold in our hand. We EXPECT things so often that we are often left humbled, disappointed and ignorantly and wrongfully blissful of the direction our lives are about to take. We EXPECT things so often that we are terribly hard on ourselves and we often have a miscalculated idea of what success is.
Expectations and our everyday lives.
At one point in my struggle of having three children in three years, I decided that it was wise of me to set low expectations for certain things. Road trips to Colorado; flights with two babies, two car seats, two strollers, and loads of luggage; getting anywhere on time, etc. were – and still are – all things that I set low expectations for. It’s not because I’m a negative person; it’s just the opposite. It’s because I want to be happy and have a positive outlook throughout the process because “everything is going better than I anticipated.” In these instances, low expectations help me feel successful in what I set out to do.
Similarly, I now try to approach my days off with a shorter list of things to do so I can enjoy doing them without constantly thinking about moving on to the next item. It also allows me to feel more accomplished and not so underwhelmed with my progress. Oftentimes I will set time limits to an item so that it doesn’t interfere with the other items and set me up for failure. I still have the tendency to let my mind wander about all of the things I want to accomplish in a single day, but reality sets in and I check my expectations.
Expectations and the pictures we paint.
Now, I will always have high expectations for my family in terms of morals, values, being true to your word, etc., but since having my son with Down syndrome, I am so much more aware of the danger of expectations. I worry that we all have a tendency to paint a picture in our minds of what our lives and our children’s lives are going to look like. The danger comes from the lack of reality that our pictures are painted in; nothing in life is guaranteed. And as we all know so well, most things in life do not go as planned.
As a high school school counselor, I have learned that expectations are the root of many evils. Parents are too easily disappointed in their child’s accomplishments (or lack thereof) and kids are too easily disappointed in themselves. In a highly competitive environment and a society that is constantly flashing ideas and photos of “perfection,” comparisons are too easily drawn and unreal expectations are often set. The subsequent fall out of unmet expectations is often damaging to one’s self and relationships with others. Additionally, expectations are often not agreed upon by more than one party, which creates a broken system from the beginning.
In the end
In the end, please don’t stop dreaming – just be careful not to taint your picture with unrealistic expectations of how your day or life ought to be. I wish I could have convinced the Facebook stranger that there is beauty in the unexpected outcomes of “advanced maternal age,” but that’s okay. It was another reminder for me to keep my expectations low when needed and to paint my pictures with reality in mind. Now, let me get back to that list…