We expect so much from our children. Yes, it’s our job to teach them and shape them into adults who function in society. But how often do we expect things of our children that we don’t do ourselves? It was disappointingly easy to produce this list of five things I expect from my kids that I haven’t yet mastered as an adult.
1. To not ruin their dinner
“No, you cannot eat that right now. I am about to start cooking dinner,” I frequently say to my 4-year-old. Then I scarf an entire bag of tortilla chips while preparing the chili they are supposed to be eaten with.
2. To always say “please” and “thank you”
“You will speak nicely and say ‘please’ when you ask for something” is a common refrain in our home. I ask my children to add a “please” to every request they make. Yet, I frequently mutter, “Can you grab my phone?” or “Hand me the remote.”
3. To cheerfully share with others
I have, once or twice, eaten the last cupcake on the floor of my bedroom so I didn’t have to share it with my family downstairs. And when I need to nurse the baby before bed, I may occasionally clutch the iPad to my chest, shout “Mine!” and dart upstairs before my husband can take it and start googling the latest in Denver Broncos news.
4. To immediately listen to us the first time we ask
“I have asked you five times to stop playing and get dressed. Get in the car!” It’s a constant battle. It frustrates me daily when my children ignore my requests. However, I commonly respond to my husband with a distracted, “uh-huh” or “hold on” if I’m wrapped up in an activity. (In my defense, only a lunatic would ask someone to start dinner when she is watching the last 10 minutes of This Is Us. That’s impossible). I’m sure my 6-year-old would counter that he was only minutes away from constructing the biggest, coolest Magnatile tower when I asked him to get ready for school.
5. To bravely face their fears
How often do we dismiss our kids’ fears as silly or unrealistic? “There’s no monster in your closet,” we say. “Monsters aren’t real.” But put me on a plane, and I’ll be white-knuckling those armrests at the first bit of turbulence. Don’t tell me that flying is safer than driving. This plane is going down.
We all want our children to be kind to others, to face their fears, and to listen and obey authorities. It’s humbling to realize how often we as adults fall short of these expectations. Should we stop enforcing these rules? Of course not!
Many of the lessons we impart to our children are aspirational. We strive for them, but no one embodies them all of the time.
It helps me to be patient with my kids when I remember that many of these life lessons are not easily mastered, even by adults. Most importantly, if I want my children to develop a certain trait, I should probably do my best to embody it and not just enforce it.