Take me to the station
And put me on a train,
I’ve got no expectations
To pass through here again
Expectations have caused me a lot of pain over the course of my life. I was often disappointed and hurt when I expected my parents to act a certain way. Boyfriends and significant others, being male, could not read my mind and my expectations of them led to more hurt.
I have had women friends of whom I expected certain things, only to find out that the person I thought I knew did not exist. I had a friend whose parenting style mirrored my own, or so I thought. So when she UNINVITED ME from their family’s holiday gathering because her teenage daughter wanted all of them to visit a family friend instead, I was stunned. Never mind the fact that I dreaded going in the first place! I just could not believe MY FRIEND would allow her daughter to make a decision that would cause the adult in the family to have to uninvite a guest. “We took a vote, and I lost,” said my friend. Excuse me? Since when is a family a democracy? So that friend is no longer my friend, all because my expectations of her were proven to be wrong, and I suddenly saw her in a different way.
We think we know people well, but we really don’t. There is a whole subterranean personality lurking in everyone. It’s just the way people are made. It’s not possible to know how someone will react or respond in a given situation until it happens.
As a result of these types of disappointments, I have worked hard to suppress and even eliminate my expectations of others. I don’t expect other drivers to be gracious on the road, so today when someone slowed down and flashed her lights to let me know she wanted to let me enter a line of traffic, after 20 cars had ignored me, it made my day!
I try not to take anything for granted, so I thank members of my family for taking out the trash, or making dinner, or running an errand. It’s too easy to start to expect those things and I don’t want to do that, both because I don’t want to be disappointed and also because I don’t want the good-deed-doer to feel unappreciated. Being thanked never gets old!
My children have taught me a lot about how to handle expectations. I learned they can’t read my mind, and it’s stupid to feel hurt if they didn’t know I was expecting them to clean up the kitchen before I got home from work. I thought they should know that I wanted them to do that. But even if I asked them to do it the night before, there was no reason to expect they would understand I wanted them to do it the next night.
With the help of a great therapist, I learned that I had to TELL people what I expected of them, what I hoped they would do. It’s really hard! There are often things we wish someone else would convey on our behalf, but when my marriage started to unravel in 1996, there was no one around to say, “You know, boys, your mother would really love flowers for her birthday,” or anything like that (of course, part of the reason the marriage unraveled was that he was so out of it that he wouldn’t have said it even if he were there!).
I had to overcome my discomfort at stating my wishes, and teach my children what I hoped for in various circumstances. It felt demanding and obnoxious to do this, but I tried to tell myself it was a good lesson for them for future relationships. Conversely, I made it a point to tell them what I didn’t expect, so they wouldn’t feel bad about tough choices.
This year, for Mother’s Day, I told MOS-32 that I did not expect him to visit me on The Day, because it was my DIL’s first Mother’s Day and celebrating HER was of the highest importance. I remember how many M’s Days I spent with my MIL, and how I hated it.
MYS-27’s fiancée’s family lives in another state, so I told him that I understood if she wanted them to travel to see her mom on The Day. I didn’t say these things to be a martyr – I really felt it. I knew they would do something “in homage to my momage,” as my friend puts it, and I was not disappointed.
This was an amazing Mother’s Day in that regard. Each son created his own special event for me, and my stepson, who has been struggling with what my role ought to be in his life (he has lost a lot of “moms” and is understandably confused about what that word even means) took me to the movies, out for ice cream, and gave me such a beautiful card that I can’t even look at it without crying. I had no expectations so each celebration was especially touching.
I have come to realize that all any of us wants is to be known by our family members (and friends, perhaps), and that is exactly what my children showed me this Mother’s Day. It was all the more meaningful because I had no expectations.