For some reason the month of May has always been the time of year when I begin to build expectations. The weather changes, school is drawing to a close, and many people begin thinking of ideas on the possibility of vacations or family visits.
This is a good time to ask our kids if there’s anything they would especially like to do for the summer or what they may be expecting or looking forward to. It is very important to really listen to what interests or excites them. Opportunities like this can help awaken our kids to what they might be expecting and support them in building a more conscious choice about what please them.
For parents, this can be fun and a valuable time – you are accessing not only some of their understanding of who and what they are as individuals, but gaining a better awareness of some of their more important desires. Since it would mostly be a conversation about what they might want and what they really want, it is very possible we will learn something new about our kids. We need to know who they are as much as do they.
I remember when Max was about 11. He said that he really wanted to go with me to Martha’s Vineyard for his birthday. Typically, I would go for a week every early summer to join with my meditation community. Who knew he had that in his head! It was a surprise to me, and I was very happy to accommodate. Each year I would create a ‘one on one’ overnight or weekend experience with each son and this played right into that. I likely would not have known of Max’s desire had I not asked him if there was anything he wanted to do for his summer that he hadn’t done before. He and I loved the trip, so it was a great experience – and it was his choice!
I urge all parents to consider some special experience with each of their children before their summer begins so they have something wonderful to look forward to. Especially make sure it is truly something they want to do. Many kids will accept most any idea the parent has but don’t underestimate their capacity to have and be able to articulate something they would really like to do. If it is affordable and can possibly work within your schedule than it is worthy of serious consideration and a genuine effort on your part to make it happen.
This type of planned experience helps teach kids the positive value of creating ideas, imagining, planning, and building expectation. They may get a lot of this in little bursts in school, such as sleep overs, sports games, and birthdays of their friends. But when it is something that they have some say in (even if it is very different or unusual) they can begin to understand ownership of their decisions concerning their interests and desires. They create their own expectation. Whether it turns out to be a terrific experience or perhaps less than desirable, they learn about real consequences of acting on their choices.
Strengthening the Bridge
If, as parents, we can get behind some of their ideas or choices, we strengthen our bridge to our kids by sharing in their real-life situations. Almost invariably from the first ideas to the final execution adjustments might have to be made in order to keep the experience and expectation alive. This should also be a coordinated effort between us and our child. A camping weekend is a great example. Both parties can agree on a time and place but very often may have to change both the time and the place in many simple ways such as weather, illness, or inadequate gear. This happens quite frequently. Our children begin to learn the practical challenges involved in expected endeavors. What is that phrase? ”The best plans go awry”. Working through the challenges together and holding on to the commitment and expectation can and will deepen our connection.
As parents we have to make many, many decisions for them without their input, which is often completely necessary especially when they are young. As they get older, we need to look for opportunities to get their input and try to incorporate it into the situation. Certainly, when they voice their opinion clearly, we should at least listen. We should listen to the strength of their intent, the enthusiasm they project, and the understanding of what it is they are proposing. If it is completely impossible like perhaps taking a trip to Disney World (too much money) then we should tell them that if it is true. They might be momentarily disappointed, but they will respect that and move on if they trust you and your adult perspective. You would be surprised how creative they can be and fairly quick to think of something else or the parent can offer something that might be affordable. At least we should try hard not to close the gate on their ideas or suggestions.
Expectation is a wonderful experience and can go a long way toward establishing a terrific and valuable dynamic between us and our children – as long as it begins by all parties being genuine about the process of getting there and the expectation is somewhat realistic. They need our buy in and we need theirs. There must be a clear understanding of who provides what and who is responsible for what. This is usually kinda fun and and a great teaching opportunity. Some of these experiences may stay with them for their lives.