Now that you are a toddler, I have many more expectations of you than ever before. I expect you to pick up your toys and say “please” when you ask for something. I expect you to answer me when I call your name or ask you a question. I expect you to at least try the healthy food on your plate and sit still at the dinner table. I expect you to put away the iPad when told and not whine when I say we can’t get candy at the store. I wish I could say that I will expect less of you as you get older, but I think the opposite is true. The expectations of today will become normal behavior tomorrow and new expectations will accumulate. Later, I will expect you to do your homework when asked and come in from outside when lunch is ready. I will expect you to fill the car up with gas after using it and always call when you are going to be late.
I have equal expectations of myself – to listen more carefully, to be more patient, to raise my voice less often.
But these expectations don’t really reflect what I expect from you as a person. They are what I expect on a daily basis. They are my attempt to shape you into a proper human being that no one will accuse of being rude.
But, here is what I really expect from you; these are the expectations that really matter:
1 – Show your emotions openly and honestly – and don’t be ashamed.
Don’t hold in anger or frustration or resentment. If you’re sad, cry; if you’re mad, yell – you’re good at this now. Your toddler-like, literal understanding of how to react to emotions is enlightening for any adult to watch. Unrecognized emotions will bury themselves inside of you and turn into something more dangerous if you don’t let them out.
2 – Don’t worry – and don’t give in to fear.
Fear and worry will find their way inside you like a pesky fly seeking attention. They will linger in your brain’s pathways, constant and unnerved, begging you to give in to them. Rise above fear with action – not complacency.
3 – Material possessions should never own you.
Your toys will break, they will get lost, and sometimes other kids will take them and play with them longer than you want. These are material objects that you think mean something to you. Possessions only hold as much power as you give them. Sometimes letting go is more rewarding than holding on.
4 – Don’t panic about messes.
When you drop your cup on the floor and milk splashes all over the tile and cabinets, you don’t need to look at me with fear – fear that I will be angry. Messes like this can always be cleaned up. All messes in life can be cleaned up, even the really big ones.
Finally, whenever you sense that I might be distracted, you always ask me, “Mom, are you happy?” My last and most important expectation of you is to be happy. You don’t need to feel happy all the time with everything and everyone. But you do need to always be happy with yourself. In each passing moment of each day, you should ask yourself, “Am I happy right now?” You’ll know if you are, or if you need to do something different.