Happy New Year, since this is my first post of 2013… The past six months on this blog have been incredibly fulfilling and I’m looking forward to more this coming year.
The holiday season has got me thinking about wants and expectations.
Pablo had a wonderful Christmas, and was quite showered with gifts. It was his first “aware” Christmas, he knew about Santa Claus coming and bringing gifts. And I have been debating for some time about what I want to tell him about gifts and Santa Claus, because I would like him to enjoy thinking of and making gifts to others too. And I would like him to recognize how thoughtful others have been to him. And yet, I would like him to experience Christmas as a child, with all the magic of Santa, Rudolph, stockings and the whole bit.
I have on occasion witnessed older children wanting something in particular, and being excited about wanting it, expecting to get what they want, and being completely uninterested and underwhelmed by the many other gifts they receive, which seems like such a shame and waste. It just feels so ungrateful and entitled somehow, it makes me cringe. They know they’re going to get what they want, so they expect it. Which got me wondering: are expectations the root of ungratefulness?
Entitled people I’ve encountered in my life have never seemed grateful to me. If we expect something, feel entitled to receive it as a matter of normality, then I suppose there’s nothing to be grateful for. And if for whatever reason, we don’t get what we expect, it can go one of two ways: we blame others, or we blame ourselves.
Yet again, life isn’t that simple.
Looking in the mirror, I realized this is something I have struggled with myself. Expecting to get the things that I want in life. That has certainly been the cause of some bitter disappointments (and self-blame). And I have learned just how crucial it is to differentiate quite clearly in my mind what I want from what I expect. When it involves other people and things outside of our control (and every part of living involves things outside of our control), we have no business expecting anything really. The only things we should expect, besides stuff like gravity, are things within our control, that involve ourselves, our effort, our work. I feel it’s OK to want something, just as long as I am fully aware I may not get it, or not the way I envisioned it. And to be all the more grateful when I do get it.
Kind of like, wanting with a grain of salt.
Wanting is less closed-minded than expecting. It seems easier to let go of wants than of expectations. Wants come and go. But our expectations are ingrained in our brains, they are that picture in our head, by which we measure success or failure. If our reality of the moment matches that picture, we have succeeded. If not, we have failed. But that is such a construct of our mind, far removed from real life, right here and right now. I am starting to think that succeeding is letting go of that picture, those expectations. And failing, is to never see beyond the expectations, and missing out on the many awesome unknowns and unsuspecteds life has in store for us.
So I’m learning to maintain a clear boundary between what I want and what I expect. Some things are better wanted than expected.
I guess that’s what I want Pablo to feel when “Santa” brings gifts to him. To want them, but not expect them. I would like him to want to receive gifts, sure. But only to expect giving them.
How does one teach that? How does one learn it?
Perhaps this is one of those things children learn by osmosis, if their models clearly make the difference in their life. I’m hoping to teach him this as I go, by keeping that boundary in my awareness as an individual and as a parent.
As I have previously reflected, I found the kitchen to be one excellent place to learn, and teach this. Take these cookies for example. They were not what I expected. The thin tollhouse type chocolate chip cookies. But I guess in the end, I just wanted them to be good. And when a cookie expert friend of mine came over, and had 4 in a row in spite of his wonderful usual will power, I figured they were good.
So here they are. They are not the graceful greyhound of cookies. They are more the big paws golden retriever of cookies (for some reason, a dog analogy came to mind…) Sweet, nutty, chunky. But I find myself loving them and enjoying them for what they are, as I write these very words… I hope you will too.