What kind of expectations do you have? Are they realistic? Why do you have expectations? Years ago I learned to put expectations aside. That doesn’t mean I allow anyone to do anything or nothing and it is okay.
When I got divorced, my children were pretty young. They were entering a whole new world with me—the world of a single mom, and kids with only one parent with them at a time. No longer were there two of us in a united front, ushering our children along.
Divorce is messy. I am always amazed when someone says they had a friendly divorce. Really? So, if you are so friendly, why aren’t you still married? Divorce is not natural. I believe in married for better or worse. But, sometimes things happen, people cannot adjust for whatever reason, and when divorce happens, many times there are two people at fault, not one. It has been so long since I became a single mom, that there is a lot of water under the bridge. I don’t remember everything, nor do I think I want to remember everything. Time has a way of healing.
I do know that I had expectations. I had four little boys who were in my charge approximately 26 out of 30 days. We muddled our way through those days. I will not even try to convince you that I had my act together. To tell the truth, I was overwhelmed. I went to see a counselor, and I distinctly remember being in tears saying, “Whenever I eat a meal, I have five dishes to wash, whenever I wear a pair of socks, I have five pair of socks to wash, and on and on and on. I was overwhelmed that all this was on me only. I couldn’t turn to someone when I was tired, and ask that they take over if even for five minutes. My counselor said to me, “It would be overwhelming being a single parent with two children, I cannot imagine how overwhelming it must be having four.” Really? That is supposed to make me feel better? That’s supposed to give me hope to move forward? I changed counselors!
As I started my single motherhood journey, the holidays came, birthdays came. I took my boys shopping and had them pick something out for their dad (small, of course, because I wasn’t going to spend a lot), but because I wanted them to know they needed to continue to celebrate his birthday, Father’s Day, and Christmas. I assumed (expected) he would reciprocate so that the boys would know that is the right thing to do. You know what they say about “assume”! I never received a card or gift. When he remarried, I stopped, and decided if she wanted them to celebrate their dad, it was now the step-mom’s job. I think the real truth of this was that I was hurt, and was tired of doing something that didn’t get rewarded.
That most likely is codependent behavior. I acted in a certain way, hoping that someone will take notice and act accordingly. But, people don’t see those signals. People many times just don’t notice. Sometimes people just don’t care. I have learned over the years to state what I need, or what I want. I’m not always very good at that, but it is a work in progress. I will always be a work in progress. You would think that after 68+ years, I would have this thing called life all figured out. It’s just not that easy.
Over the years I expected that all my bosses and coworkers would like me. Why not? I’m a likable person. The truth is, not everyone likes me. I no longer take that reality personally. I am not going to relate to everyone, and not everyone is going to relate to me. I have always wondered why bosses end up not liking the person they hired. Do we have a tendency to see and hear what we hope for when we interview someone, and are they not being their true selves in the interview?
What about when we are dating and selecting the person we want to do life with. When I was young, I totally ignored red flags. I was never taught to look for them, so if something didn’t seem quite right, I was sure I wasn’t understanding enough. Yes, codependents have low self esteem. It must be my fault, even though I know it’s not. Or, if I knew it wasn’t me, I was really good at making excuses in my mind for that other person. It’s a dangerous road to go down.
The serenity prayer states, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” This is a prayer written by American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930’s. This prayer is used in 12-step groups to help participants realize that they can only control their own actions, and not the actions of anyone else. It is such a shame that most people don’t know the full prayer. The prayer continues to say, ” Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as a pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever and ever in the next. Amen.”
I love this prayer. It teaches me that I have no control of others, I can only control myself. Not only that, it says I must live one day at a time, and that I should be reasonably happy. I don’t have to be overjoyed constantly, but reasonably happy, or as I would word it, reasonably content. I love the contentment much more than giddy happiness. It is about accepting things as they are, the things I cannot control.
I was recently asked what I wanted for my children. Understand, that all my children are adults. We as parents have hopes and dreams for our kids. It surprised me when I answered that it was not a place I should go. I have absolutely no control over my adult children. For me to say the things I want for them, which I cannot do for them, and they must do for themselves, even if they want those things, just puts me in a place of setting myself up for worrying, bursting my way in to save, and many other things that would be harmful to either them or me. What do I want for my children? I want them to figure out life. I want them to be strong and independent. I won’t be here forever. I want them to be able to live life abundantly without me. And, yes, I want them to think of me, to spend time with me, to make me feel appreciated. The problem with that is that they have to do it the way they are comfortable. It may not be my way. I will not place those expectations on them because, 1) they may not be able to deliver; and 2) they may not do it the way I want.
I am thrilled if they call me just to talk. I am thrilled if they remember my birthday. I am thrilled if they want to come visit me. I am thrilled if they teach their children and nieces and nephews by example.
I want a lot of these things. I just don’t expect them. So, now when it comes, I am thrilled. I am thrilled to watch my kids relate to each other and care for each other. I hope they continue to have each other’s back when I am long gone.