The night of my baptism I went to sleep disappointed I hadn’t been murdered. I figured showing that I was big enough to demonstrate my devotion to God and also the absolution of a life cut off early, unburdening me of the hard work of actually living out my devotion seemed like the best option. In fact, in the weeks leading up to my baptism, I planned it out to the point that I expected it to happen. I would be standing at the refreshments table, enjoying my cookie, glowing in my damp hair and new birthday dress and a shooter would break into the building, take me out in a clean shot, I’d give up my last breath telling my family I loved them and lights out. So, when I was standing at the refreshments table after the service, eating my cookie, I did not focus on all the nice people that showed up to be with me, but I spent the time preoccupied, looking over my shoulder, waiting for the shooter to end my life according to plan. Surely, somewhere in the universe, there was someone who had the other half of my plans twisted in their brain, and would play the demented part in my fantasy baptism-murder saga.
But they never came, and it turns out I was just a cryptic kid, who woke up the next morning saying, so since I didn’t get murdered, what’s plan b?
Looking back on it now, I’m a bit horrified at my bizarre plan and at the same time impressed with the power of the expectations I invented. I decided on what I wanted: glory and no work and contrived a plan to create it, then wrote up expectations in my brain of exactly how it was going down.
I guess I accountable, but not really logical at eight years old.
A recent chat with a life coach let me know I have a pattern of creating expectations that let me down (albeit, less cryptic than that murder fantasy at 8). For example, my children valuing clean clothes.
Yesterday, I noticed one child wearing snot-smeared pajamas when I left to teach a class and then still when I returned. And still, when he emerged for asking me what I was making for dinner. Why? I asked the undisclosed child about the situation and they acted completely baffled that this could be a problem or a tidy appearance was desirable. “After all, Mom, there’s no school today.” Facepalm.
Are non-snotted daytime clothes only expected for school days? Are my expectations galaxies away from theirs- that living well on a school holiday is staying in PJs and not worrying about a few snivels (or several remnants of a minor bloody nose) that end up on your shirt? Ick.
Clearly, we had different expectations. I didn’t write up or send out a copy of Dressing for Self-Respect and Decency nor did I receive this child’s unscripted brochure on Taking a Day off from School, Public Norms, and Tissues. Gah.
They can’t understand why I don’t understand it their way. Obviously, I feel the same. (Though I really would tolerate it better and even be humored if said child did write up that brochure- hopefully with illustrations.)
But some occasions we break the pattern and communicate. Usually that’s on Saturday mornings when they come to announce their rooms are clean and their chores are complete. Sometimes, they stop themselves, knowing what I’ll ask sometimes before I do–
“What would I say if I walked in?”
“Yeah, mom- I know what you’re going to ask- I even got the socks behind the bed and the piles.” I grin; hopeful. Maybe my angels- in snotty pajamas- have been “silent notes taking” on my audio version of How to Clean Your Room Completely: Vacuuming is Fun, Socks Under the Bed are a No, and Piles of Papers Shoved Behind Furniture Isn’t Really Doing Any Good. Or at least hid them better where I wouldn’t notice.
It’s all in the expectations- those I communicate and so many that I don’t. There’s so many that I fail to meet as with my kids who really aren’t sure about the stanky socks behind the bed part.
And at 5:35 AM, when my alarm for yoga goes off.
If I tell I don’t share my future expectations in advance with my then 5:35 AM, potentially snotty pajamaed self, there’s no way I’m getting up and into lycra and public.
But, I’ve recently discovered something that’s working even better than expectations that I may or may not disappoint- a feeling. When it’s 5:37 and I’m vacillating between the comfort of my bed and the yoga mat, I remember how I feel at the end of practice. The radiance of limber muscles, energy, and the need for a shower- that feeling moves me in a way no expectation can.
Even if I barely get there with my contact lenses in the right eyes, because I let go of that expectation a while ago because I know I can still get there when I get that thing wrong.
Which is why I’m pretty I know the pattern of when my kids do clean their rooms following my lengthy titled guidebook, How to Clean Your Room Completely: Vacuuming is Fun, Socks Under the Bed are a No, and Piles of Papers Shoved Behind Furniture Isn’t Really Doing Any Good- that’s when they hug me first, because they know and seek the feeling of when I’m proud of them.