And it starts with small things. It starts with holding them accountable for their words and actions, but also being accountable for my own. If I tell my kids we are going to do something, it’s important to me that I keep my word, even when it’s not convenient or I’m tired. Because in that accountability, they’ll find strength, they’ll find work ethic, and while they’ll find endless frustration at times, it will give them the tools to succeed as adults. And I hope their high expectations for me are met as well.
I joke sometimes that I was raised in the 1950s. And while I certainly wasn’t, both of my parents were, and although their parents would likely disagree, they raised me like they were raised, only 30 years later. And by that I mean they raised me with high expectations, namely to show gratitude, to be a good communicator, and to stand by my word. They also raised me to be an independent thinker, to stand up for myself when warranted, and to be self-reliant. But they were strict with me. So much stricter than most of my friends’ parents.
I didn’t appreciate it at the time. And I’m sure my grandmother — the same one who considered darn a curse word — thought that my mom let me run wild. But it sure didn’t feel like it when I was growing up in small town Alaska in the 80s.
In fact, I swore that I wouldn’t be as strict with my own kids. I swore up and down that I would do things differently. It’s not unlike the ideas someone without kids has about how the “perfect parent” should do things, or how the “perfect kids” should act.
I saw their requests that I appreciate everything I had as horribly old fashioned, as well as their requirement that I send thank you letters for every gift. I saw their request that I let them know where I was going and when I would be home as a controlling leash.
Then I grew up.
And I realized that it was less about old fashioned values and more about showing respect to others. Now that I’m a parent, I understand their high expectations, and in turn, have them for my own kids.
All of those values that I thought of as old fashioned have become incredibly important to me. And, I’m far from perfect. Far from perfect. I lose my temper at times.
But even though it means that I am disappointed in people regularly for not doing what they say they’re going to, even though it means I inevitably will butt heads with my strong-willed children, my expectations are high.
I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them all the time. It probably frustrated them to the point of tears more than once, in ways that I’m only just beginning to understand as I struggle with which battles to choose with my own kids.
But, even though I’d like my kids to be perfect all the time, I also am fully aware that that’s not who they are. My son may pick dandelions on the soccer pitch (fact). He may drive me up the wall with his crazy talk and behavior. But if he’s kind to others, and treats them all equally (in some cases, equally silly, if not respectfully), in the end I’m happy. He’s still little, but even though he’s often wild and silly, I’m proud that he tries to include everyone when he plays.
I have high expectations that one day, my daughter will grow up to be confident enough to purchase her own home and take on a remodel, that she’ll travel the world on her own, and that she is willing to pick up a hammer or power tool without saving the job for her father or a partner.
My father passed away nearly 4 years ago now, and I’m still discovering the gifts he gave me despite often being at odds with one another when I was growing up. And I think perhaps the most important one was a willingness to stand by his opinion, even when it wasn’t popular. Because people didn’t always agree with him, but they sure respected him for it.
It is my utmost hope that both of my kids grow up independent not co-dependent. I hope that they honor their word, have the courage to stand up for what they believe in, and that they are willing to call their friends on bad behavior. And I know first hand that it’s not always setting them up for an easy road, but that it’s certainly a road worth walking.
They may see me as hopelessly old fashioned as well. But when they grow up, I hope they’ll appreciate my own high expectations for them, even if it takes a few decades (or more) as adults to fully appreciate my reasons.