My son has, over the past year, developed an intense interest in all things football and is very excited to be only a week or so away from starting play with a more formal team. I was reading an open letter to parents of players yesterday, from a coach of one of the slightly older teams in town, and it left me with an icky feeling in the pit of my stomach. Basically the traditional/conventional view of kids and parenting kind of thing,an outline of how he sees the parent role with phrases like "Parents would do well to remember a few simple facts: ....Only the best players play.... In our "Me First" society, some parents seem to prefer being their son's friend rather than his parent. Your son has plenty of friends. He needs a parent to provide discipline and guidance....... Under no circumstances should you allow your son to quit!" So I deleted the letter, took a deep breath (thank you to this group for the frequent reminders to do that!), and later on in the day found it all coming up again in my art journaling.

Lots of little boxes were appearing on my page, all quite similar. A song my mother used to sing when I was little came into my head, and I googled the lyrics to find out its name -- "Little Boxes". And then to the lovely YouTube to hear the version my mother must have heard:
Or maybe it was Pete Seeger:

And then I found LOTS more! Apparently the theme song for tv series Weeds, which I will now have to check out. I love these two: and . (Ya gotta love Randy Newman!) Whoa! All of these connections and a musical smorgasbord to boot as a result of reading one open letter!

I had the song and the football letter and lots of recent posts from Always Learning swirling around in my head, posts about parenting younger children and living with teens. And they all sort of funneled down into one word: Expectations. Beliefs projected on the future, what we think should happen. A rigid bias towards some envisioned result.

I think that some of my biggest mental difficulties with parenting and unschooling have come as a result of unexamined expectations. I expected early parenthood to be a certain way because of how I was raised and what I may have observed in other people. I expected my own behavior with my son as a toddler to be a certain way because of how I was raised, books I read, societal pressures and 'norms'. It wasn't until I really looked at my own behavior in situations, the results of my own actions, and what I felt and wanted from deep in my own heart that I started to make changes away from doing what was expected to doing what was right for my child and my immediate family. Started looking at what the needs and desires were in that moment. It led me to unschooling, among other things. ;-)

Some of my own hurts in life have come from a place of feeling as if someone close to me expects something of me but just doesn't see the real me. The script is written without my input! I don't want to do that to my son. I don't want to push and squeeze him into a little box of my making (or my parents'... or society's...). I find that letting go of expectations is a constant, continual process. It takes effort on my part, but makes our life much sweeter and happier, more peaceful.

As my son has entered his teen years (and really, before that too) I have had to be even more conscious of letting go of expectations I had regarding his wants and needs. As a younger boy, he liked cooperative and noncompetitive games and lots of time with my husband and I. Now, lo and behold, he loves football! Loves the competitive aspect of it, and craves more time with his friends and less time with parents. Sometimes I think that some of the big turmoils created between parents and teens start with the parents continuing to expect the same 'younger child' wants and needs from their teens. Kids mature, they grow and learn, they get adult level hormones! Static expectations, trying to fit them into the same old little boxes of the past, these don't allow us to truly see who our kids are, what they may need and desire today, right in this moment.

All that said, I do think that expectations can be a desirable thing, as well. I have expectations that my husband will continue to work for pay so that we can continue our unschooling lifestyle, because we have talked about that and agreed upon it. I have expectations that guests in my home will treat us with respect. The principles by which we live here as a family are a sort of expectation, guidelines of behavior that make us all feel secure and safe and happy living here together. As in all of the variations of the song "Little Boxes", the principles are the basic song structure and melody which we all then create our unique and individual lives from.

And I have the expectation that in order to create a peaceful family life and expansive learning opportunities, I must be willing to engage in a lot of self-examination and be open to change.<g>