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Minding Our Expectations

Recently I was out to dinner with my daughter on a date. The restaurant we went to is very family friendly and had a great play area for kids. My daughter was off exploring and I was sitting at the table people watching. I am fascinated by people and always very curious about what they are up to – this is why I became a social worker – I want to know all of the things about all of the people.

Along with being family friendly, the restaurant has a creative little solution to help you flag down your server. On a little stand on the table, there’s a little keypad with some buttons. You can choose to order, get your check, or request your server. Ingenious, right?

The table next to me had a family with a toddler and a baby. Guess what the toddler was all over?

You guessed it! The keypad.

No one could blame him. I’m 44 years old and I was excited to push it!

I watched his mom tell him, oh so peacefully, it wasn’t a toy.

Because he’s a toddler and his entire job in life is to experiment, push limits, and try things, he did it again.

You know what that mom did?

She MOVED the keypad over to my table. She didn’t snap at her kiddo. She didn’t huff. She just moved the very tempting thing out of the reach of the very curious toddler.

I am an advocate for talking to strangers and offering compliments. I think if we all talked to each other more, we would all be happier.

So I leaned over and complimented her. We connected. People who know me even a little won’t be surprised when I tell you we are now friends.

This story is a perfect example of minding our expectations.

Some of the things I say often in workshops and in coaching sessions are variations of:

“He sounds like a real 3-year-old!”

“She’s sure acting her age!”


As parents, we so often set ourselves *and* our children up for frustration and disappointment when we aren’t realistic about our expectations. It’s not our fault – most parents didn’t study child development. But now that we have children, it behooves us and our families to learn what’s typical. If we can do this and lower our expectations to where they should be, it will save so many tears and meltdowns.

It was my birthday last week and I really wanted to go see “Little Women”. My daughter was very interested in the story – she loves a plucky heroine and this movie had five! But the movie is over two hours long and my daughter is 7.5 years old. It was a gamble. I can’t sit still that long without shifting in my seat but as an adult, I’m not so obvious about it. My husband and I talked it over and knew she might not be able to make it. We knew we might have to leave early. We decided to go for it.

Sure enough, about an hour in, she started to feel restless. I felt myself get worried. “What if we have to leave? What if people get annoyed with her restlessness? What if she ruins my birthday movie?”

Then I coached myself, “She’s acting like a 7.5-year-old in a long movie. You might not get to stay for the whole thing. You knew that going in. It’s okay. Deep breaths.”

She settled after I got her a snack and at the end of the movie, she ran down the hallway shouting, “Little Women is the best movie ever!”

This gamble paid off. The story was wonderful enough to hold her attention. Plus, popcorn certainly helped.

I could have handled it differently when she got restless and asking me questions. I could have been annoyed at her inside of in my mind. I could have chastised her for making noise and moving around. But I caught myself because I was minding my expectations.

Can you think of a situation that would have gone differently had you minded your expectations?

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