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Great Expectations (as a parent)

Photos by Erin Hatton

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of an online writing acquaintance of mine, Erin Hatton.

She’s a blogger and fiction writer, other details about her are listed below but the most important factoid is that she’s a mother of four kids.

She writes about expectations of parents for themselves and their children – a topic that I’ve written about before – but Erin has a unique perspective.

If you’d like to submit a guest post yourself, here are the guidelines.


Growing up I knew a lot about expectations and how to fill them.

I got straight A’s in school, turned out art, music, and writing projects to ooh’s and ah’s, and behaved so well I sometimes got teased.

My husband likes to say I came from the Cleaver family. Most of the time I was pretty happy with this arrangement.

Needless to say, I had some expectations of my own for parenthood. Without admitting so much to myself, I hoped for this utopian home with angelic children that ran on sunbeams and flowers.

Like that was ever going to happen!

What I got was four moody, high-energy children who like to climb walls in their spare time. Literally [see photo insert of my daughter].

Redefining my expectations has been a bit of a journey for me. My son came along with ADHD and learning difficulties.

My daughter pitches battle over every decision and impersonates animals. My twins take the cake with their antics. With each child I’ve had to relax and reevaluate what I can reasonably expect as a parent.

It can be tempting as a parent to throw all expectations out the window. “I’ll let my child be what he will be.” But realistically we have to, and usually do, have some expectations. Here are a few of mine.

I don’t expect my kids to be perfect. I do expect them to do their best.

I don’t expect my kids to be someone they are not. I do expect them to be the best version of themselves they can be.

I don’t expect my kids to like everyone. I do expect them to be kind to everyone.

I don’t expect my kids to be great at everything. I do expect them to try anything.

I don’t expect my kids to be “on their game” every minute. I do expect them not to be defined by their limitations.

I don’t expect my kids to be seen and not heard. I do expect them to be respectful.

I don’t expect my kids to get it right the first time. I do expect them to keep trying.

So there are a few, and I’m continually honing this list day by day.

The point is to find a balance between an unattainable standard and no standard at all.

How about you? Do you have expectations about parenting that you’re finding unrealistic?

Have you discovered a better set of expectations that you’d like to share?

Erin Hatton is a fiction author and stay-at-home mother of 4. Her latest novel Otherworld was shortlisted for the Grace Irwin Award.

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  1. “I don’t expect my kids to be perfect. I do expect them to do their best.” Bingo!

  2. Excellent expectations!

  3. Erin, Excellent list! I wish I had had this 20 years ago. I’m the mother of three adult children, and 5 adorable grandchildren. What I’ve learned in retrospect is to remember I don’t have to be perfect – my children learned more from my mistakes and how I handled them, than by my unrealistic expectations. And my children, however they turned out, is not what defines me.
    I’m sharing this with them.

  4. Expectations are a hot topic in our home right now. My step-daughter is a beautiful, sweet natured, intelligent,11 year old child who has been raised without expectations. No one expects anything from her or of her. This allows her to float through the her day in her own world, not knowing how to engage with others. She isn’t expected to do chores, to participate in family activities, clean up after herself or even get her own drink when she is thirsty. She isn’t expected to do anything more than what she feels that she could/should do.

    When we don’t have expectations for our children, we are in essence telling them that they are not worthy of our attention and that we have little faith in their abilities to do even the most menial of tasks.

    Allowing a child to go through life without expectations is not in any child’s best interest. It leaves them without purpose or direction. When a child has no direction, they are more likely to wander off into dangerous territory looking for their purpose. A scary thought for any parent.

  5. Expecting your kids to do THEIR best — not your best — and commanding respect and to be that of others are two great expectations to have.
    You’re doing a great job, Mom! Love the photo insert ;-)

  6. I like your set of expectations.

    You are so right: It is a balancing act to set the bar with encouragement and expectations while not setting it so far out of reach that discouragement sets in.

    When we don’t set expectations, we are actually enabling them. While our intention is to say, this is how I show you I love you, by doing everything for you. However, the message you are sending, by giving them money, by allowing them to sleep and play and not help around the house, is that they are just not capable.

  7. Wow, I wish I had your list when I still had growing kids. You nailed it on every line. Hopefully, if I ever have grandkids, I will know where to find you.

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