I am a person that expects a lot. I’m learning that about myself. I expect people to treat me fairly. I expect to be spoken to with respect. I expect my mother to help me out of any bind. I expect my husband to tell me he loves me. Though I expect all these things with good intentions, it doesn’t mean that I’m not presented with situations where these expectations aren’t fulfilled. I remember the list of expectations I had when I got married, even some of them being expectations of myself (e.g., do laundry weekly, feed my husband, keep my home clean). At times, my expectations were too high, and frustration, disappointment, and worry would meet me at my front door. My husband would remind me he didn’t create those list of expectations for me and pointed out that I was unnecessarily causing myself a great deal of stress. Well, what is it they say? That old habits die hard?
As I shared in my last post, Isabelle just turned two. As excited as I was about her reaching this important milestone, I also used this as an opportunity to become stressed about her development. It’s so funny, because I usually find myself so impressed with all the new things she does daily, like any parent. However, at times we allow a little seed of doubt to grow into a large, horse sized problem. This is how it all started:
A friend posted a video on the internet of her daughter, who was born just a few days after Izzy, on her 2nd birthday. Now, I don’t believe I have mentioned that I am a speech-language pathologist. So, if there is anything I worry about at all, related to development, it’s her language. As soon as I watched the video this thought entered my head: “I don’t think Isabelle speaks that well” (the seed of doubt). Well, my brain just ran with it. I started checking language development lists, worried that Isabelle had a language delay. (Before I continue, I want to clarify, it would not have mattered if she did have a language delay, she wouldn’t be the only child to have one, or I wouldn’t have a job). Anyway, I started thinking I wasn’t doing enough as a mom to encourage language development with her, and immediately texted my friend who primarily works with pre-schoolers to share my concerns (we are now at the stage of a horse sized problem). I wish at this point someone would have hit me over the head with a sign reading: CALM ALLLLLL THE WAY DOWN CRAZY LADY.
Nevertheless, I wasn’t paying attention to any signs at that time, my brain was solely focused on this delay I diagnosed my child with. So, as I’m listing my concerns to my friend, she asks me questions about Isabelle’s communication skills. In hindsight, I actually think I was answering the questions wanting my child to have a delay, because all the things that I said she didn’t do, she did them this week. I continued to answer her questions and I start to realize I have a long list of expectations of things Isabelle should be doing communication wise, some of them completely unreasonable. I realized that I ask her questions all the time, as if she is some genius child whose understanding surpasses that of any two year old. For example, after her birthday party I asked her “Izzy, what animals did you see at the petting farm?”, expecting her to rattle off the list of animals I know she knows. Oh, that brings me to my other realization. I have been asking Isabelle questions to make me feel like she’s right on tract. What color is this? What animal is that? How many do you have? What does a cow say? Where is your teddy bear? What shape is that? I am explaining this to my friend and she says “ You’re her mom and her best friend. You’re not her teacher to test her.”
WOW. Not only did I diagnose my child with a language delay, I kind of have been treating her like she has one. I know the first rule of teaching language to a child is to model what you would like them to learn. However, I’ve been questioning her like a mad scientist, secretly evaluating what she knows and doesn’t know. WHO DOES THAT?!!! In my defense, I was trying to create learning experiences by asking all the questions. However, to really enjoy my time with her, I should have been having conversations with Isabelle, knowing that she was benefiting from me just talking to her about what we were doing and spending quality time with her. But my list of expectations, of what she should be doing at her age, prevented me from really relaxing and as usual created unnecessary worry.
Hey, but the point of this blog is for me to change and learn from my experiences in this thing called motherhood. So, this week I talked to Isabelle lots. We took a walk and talked about the things we saw. We talked about what she was doing during bath time. We talked about the pictures in her books during story time. I banned myself from asking too many questions and shifted my focus from judging her actions to enjoying the time we spent together. This happened a few weeks ago, and I can truly say it really has changed my interactions with her. I feel that I am more present and I am worry-free.
To anyone reading this, I encourage you to think about the expectations you have for different areas of your life and evaluate if they are hindering you from truly enjoying your reality and the blessings granted to you. Expectations usually are created in an effort to create peace and avoid conflict. However, could it be possible that our lists of expectations do the opposite?