Today is our last swim meet. And I’m a tiny bit sad.

Here’s how swim team and most extracurricular activities go around our house – especially for any kid other than our first. Since our brood entered the world back to back to back (four of them are all 22 months apart – then Jack a little over five years after Fury) they have rarely had the opportunity to think the world revolves around them. They have shared rooms from the get-go. All of them lived in our room at the onset. Poor Jack lived in our closet for four years. (eek! – it’s true. I promptly moved him out when he decided that everything in the closet – that included the gifts I pre-purchase for kids and birthday parties –  was his. “Can you get that watergun down from the shelf for me?” he asked one day. “No. That will be a gift for someone, some day.” “Is this my room?” came the next inquiry, accompanied by a sweeping motion around his bed. “Ummm…. yes.” “Then it’s my stuff.” Clearly he was too old to still be in our closet. He’s just so easy going and agreeable. And it was a large closet.)

So, in many a sport season, when the kids get to do a sport, parental participation or presence at said activities might not look like other families. I’m usually doing a quick drive by, stop, kick out of the car and a sing-songy “Have fun!” as I drive away. I watch the parents gathered on the sidelines and mourn for days gone by when it used to be me. When my kids were little and it was one for all and all for one. We would all attend practices and games, the kids playing/me chatting while we “watched” the oldest brother kick a soccer ball, play basketball, etc.

Jon & I do our best to be at things. But more often than not overlap rules. And since I’ve been the primary mode of transportation, our kids get to participate in sports sans parents. Which is a good thing, I know. But let’s just point out: mom “participation” in a kid’s sport tends to be more about our thirst for social time than any helicopter action.

And, that’s what I miss. The days in the park and on the sidelines when I could sit with a group of gals and visit, catch up, solve the world’s problems or at least make inroads into the dinner menu conundrum. But, since our swim team requires a small commute and my summer school/work/driver’s ed carpools fell into place, I’ve had the wonderful chance to sit by a pool almost every morning and dish with new and old friends. Without one child hanging on me, begging “Mom! …. Pleeeeeezzzzzz stop talking!” And I’m super sad it’s almost over.

Last week, my new friends and I had many a great discussion. So here’s a share on one of the best or at least thought provoking. Still … there were several. I asked a mom if she would guest blog for us. It was such good stuff about camp. Crossing my fingers on that one. But until then, one of the moms said, “I have a friend who at the beginning of her marriage set her expectations low. She told me, ‘If set my expectations for him as a husband low, his helping out, his attentiveness, etc, then he will almost always exceed them.'”

We laughed and commented on how true that is. How expectations play with our emotion and almost always spur frustration. “When I told my husband about my friend’s comment,” the mom continued, “he said it would hurt his feelings if I set my expectations for him low.”

I loved that he was honest. Because he’s right. It’s a bit of a blow if someone has low expectations about you. In fact I’ve noticed with my kids that high expectations, more often than not, inspire.

So where’s the happy medium?

I think the key in expectation setting is like most things in life – taking ourselves out of the equation. Being disappointed because my expectations aren’t being met probably says more about me than the person on the other end of my expectations. So, in my own mind, if I think about serving the person, inspiring the person, rather than how the person is to serve and inspire me – then good stuff comes on the other side of that.

And I think that’s what that newly wed was getting at. By setting her expectations low, she was really taking herself out of the equation. She was modifying what she thought she deserved so that she was pleasantly surprised rather than miserably mistreated. She wasn’t judging her new spouse. She was setting him up for success. Because there are two ways to consider expectations. One is inspiration based – “You can do more than you think you can.” One is performance based – “You did okay, but could have (should have) done more.”

The latter is heavy and has land mines all around it. The former seems to offer a bit more freedom and weighs a lot less.

I can’t help but go a step further on this. Because as I’m writing I’m moved by comparisons between religion (performance based expectations) and grace-infused faith (life-giving freedom). Which bleeds into all sorts of life facets. Then I wonder which one I leave in my wake – for my husband, for my kids, for my friendships. Freedom to excel/exceed or a load of judgement. Hmmmm….

I don’t know. Food for thought on a beautiful rainy Monday here in unseasonably cool Dallas. I think this one has more legs. Would love your comments.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


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