Bryan and I spend a lot of time talking about managing expectations. It’s become a good foundation for our everyday lives. It’s much easier to deal with “disturbances” when you know they are coming. For instance, if I’m planning on cooking a meal when I get home from work it’s easier to manage the boys if we both how the evening will play out. Preparing the meal begins around 5 and the food might be ready around 6. There’s going to be a toddler underfoot who wants to “help” (or “make” his own meal, probably sketti). There will most likely be a baby who decides he needs to eat at 5:30. So, if we know what to expect, we can deal with “issues” in a calm, nice manner. If I come home at 4:45 and announce that I want to make supper, I can potentially shatter an evening. Maybe Bryan wanted to go running and was thinking we’d eat leftovers. Because supper works better with two people around, one of us has to sacrifice. That means one of us gets disappointed. With me, disappointment can ruin a day. We talk a lot about managing expectations because we want to be considerate of each other. We don’t want to put all the weight on the other. We want to share in our responsibilities and we can do a better job of that when we know what to expect.
We’ve also come to realize that a toddler’s world revolves around expectations. We may not know what they are, but Maximus does. And he has strong feelings about what those expectations are. It starts in the morning. The quickest way to shatter his world is for the wrong parent to greet him. You can watch his face crumble as his disappointment is expressed in tears and wails. “I want mommy!” I’ve been the recipient of a lot of, “NOOOOO! I want daddy! No daddy work!” It’s all about expectations. At bedtime we try to prepare him for the morning, “I’ll see you in the morning.” We taught him the days of the week so he knows when to expect to go to daycare and when we stay home. He knows that “on Saturdays we stay home and we eat pancakes.” And, “on Sundays we stay home. Me, and Quinten, and mommy, and daddy. WE STAY HOME!”
There is a fine line between telling him what’s going on so he knows what to expect and his inability to relate to time. For instance, daycare drop off tomorrow would go smoother if we told him that my mom is picking him up. He’ll be excited to see her. But, without any sense of time that will create an issue. He’ll be waiting all day for her to show up. So, we pretend that it’s any other day and Bryan will pick him up. Now, this could backfire and he could get upset because he expects Bryan to show up. In this instance, we take a chance and assume he’ll be super excited to see my mom. Because, where my mom is, my dad is usually quick to follow. 😉 No, really, he’ll be just as excited to see my mom. The natural question after seeing my mom is always, “where’s grandpa.” It would be the same if my dad showed up first.
In the heat of an epic toddler tantrum, it’s hard to remember that being a toddler is hard. It’s a constant state of growing – physically, mentally, and emotionally. In a world where adults rule, I can only image the disappointment that Maximus can feel on a daily basis. Most days, it’s hard enough being an adult. Take away my ability to choose what I want to eat (and when!), what I want to wear, and when I need to go to the bathroom. All of a sudden those tantrums don’t seem so bad. It’s about the only way he can do what he wants. Maybe I’ll take an extra long breath the next time it happens, because I should expect them to happen and I should give him a little slack. After all, being a toddler is hard.