Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Shift of Expectations

There's a cookie-cutter mold that expectant parents begin to build for their children, a mold that includes dates and times, expectations of success in all pursuits, educational and social alike.  It may include preconceived notions of milestones hit, grades received, career choices selected.  And, as good little unborn babies, we do not disappoint, fueling the acrobat/quarterback/violin-playing dreams with every kick or nudge of an elbow in mommy's ribs.

When we, ourselves, were born, we were given many of the tools necessary to meet those expectations, the books, extracurricular activities, enriching outings to museums or science-supply warehouses, musical instruments, lessons, you name it.  And we never wanted to disappoint our parents.

Yet, we invariably do in one way or another, at some time or another.

When a child with a disability is born, a ghost of those expectations continues to linger for some time. 

"What are your *expectations* for her first year?" the Early Intervention people asked on their first visit to our home to evaluate our 6 week old baby. 

"Well, I *expect* she will be walking at 12 months,"  I responded with the honesty and naivety that only a frightened new mother, still feeling the strength of her baby's kicks, could muster. 

After all, isn't that what babies do?  At least that's what all the books say...

And, over time, those ghosts became replaced with the new reality, the one in which our expectation shifted to accomodate delays and the understanding that our child will do what she will, when she is ready. 

Report cards?  Pshaw!  My childhood drive to receive only Outstandings and Exceeds Expectations and straight A's, a drive born of the knowledge that that's just what one does, no longer sits within me as a requirement for my own child.  I know she works hard, I know she tries.  I also know it's not realistic to have the same expectations.  Are my expecations high for her?  Absolutely.  I expect that she will work hard, will try, will do the best that she can, and I expect that what she does will not be perfect, and I expect that she will make me proud, no matter what.  Straight A's?  I do not expect those.  As a matter of fact, I'd be highly suspicious of her educational team if she did get that. 

Samantha's report card came home last week.  When I was a child, that was one of the most exciting events of the school year.  I received money for each A.  I loved to see how well I was doing at school.  But to be honest, I have barely even skimmed Samantha's report yet.  As a contributing and communicating member of her educational team, I know that there are no real surprises on it.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I will be reading it, carefully, but we maintain such direct contact with her teacher and supports that we pretty much know what's there. 

And our expectations of what is there are very different than the expectations we thought we'd have at this time, back when Samantha was a mere tadpole.

We see progress.  That is what's important, not As, or Outstandings or Exceeds. 

We expect this.  We are proud.

(Note:  This post was coincidentally similar to the discussion requested by Lisa at "Life as I Know It" this morning on her blog hop.  I hope you'll hop over there and read what she and others have to say on this topic as well!) 


Yo Mamma Mamma! said...

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Lisa Morguess said...

Beautiful, Becca.

Lisa said...

Cate got an A, two Bs and a C on her academics this quarter and we celebrated! If I had come home with this there would have been serious converstations about studing and classroom behavior. I too adjusted my expectations to my daugther's strengths (reading, momorizing) & weakness (math) and make sure she always knows we are proud of her working so hard no matter what the paper says in the end. As you said PROGRESS that is what matters.

Anna Theurer said...

well said, mama bear!

lovemy3 said...

As co-valedictorian of my high school class...never receiving anything lower than an A-...my children's report cards have been challenging for me. I'm learning to be happy with progress as long as I know they are trying and working hard. Great post! By the way, I hate the IEP evals and writing our IFSPs...I don't like the question, "what is your expectation for the next 6 months?". I want to choose something that is a high expectation, but yet is attainable. I don't want to set her up to fail.

Chromosomally Enhanced said...

So right..Maddie and Max were suppose to be one thing in my over blown mind and have both come up different...and better yet it has taken me a long time to be at peace with it! I get Maddie reports and I look at everything as being great for Maddie and for Max well I am very hard on him...as I should be...Maddie turn is soon to come as soon as real school hits she will will have the same expectations as Max...be respectful and kind and do your best...bright futures ahead...smiles

amber malmberg said...

Thanks for the post! I don't like the question "what is your expectation for the next 6 months" either. I'm actively working with Royce every day…all day long! So really, the question is more like "what are my personal goals I want to set as a mom, and how can I reassess my goals to be more affective?" I know it's not about us…It's about our children, but really it comes down to what tools are we going to use to help our children succeed and hit these amazing milestones. But WE are the number 1 most effective tool as the mom. We still take it it day-by-day, and celebrate accomplishments as they come. I don't mean to undermine the IFSP's, but it always felt more like paper-work than effective. Royce isn't in pre-school yet, so I can't speak on the topic of Report-cards, but I ABSOLUTELY LOVED how you talked about being such an active advocate for your daughter that you didn't even need to necessarily read it because you already know what's going on, and you have a great relationship with the teachers! Exactly the way it should be!

Rochelle said...

Great post! We don't expect straight A's from any of our kids just their absolute best whatever that looks like for each one!

Extranjera said...

I think I broke my parents growing up, and it took me much longer than they had ever expected, hoped, begged from someone above, or anything like that to reach *my* full potential. Potential, that has now morphed into attainable goals for myself (such as actually thinking a while before hitting publish, or cleaning so that my hair's not on every piece of food we ingest, or giving myself enough time every night to get through a part of a novel that really is worth reading). So as far as Babe goes, that's all I want for her, to launch her into the world with skills that make it enjoyable for her to live in that world and that will help her decide what it is that she would like to do with her life.

And I'm pretty sure math is not included in that bunch. hasn't been for me.

Melissa said...

I just love this post!