Great Expectations: A Letter to My Toddler
Dear almost 3-year-old,
I know it seems like I have high expectations for you because I do. I expect you to be somebody great one day. But I’m realizing that my expectations lately have been skewed. Maybe it’s getting muddied because of my adultness or my difficulty to see you just as you are; a growing, independent individual who is not yet even three. I've been thinking, and I’ve come up with a more real representation of my expectations for you for today and the years to come so I can stop being surprised by your choices and give you the grace you deserve. This way, you can stop feeling shamed when you “make a bad choice.” (I’ll try and stop saying that so often)
My sweet 2 year old. I expect you to cry over spilt milk. You don’t realize there’s more milk where that came from. I expect you to fight me when I’m trying to buckle you into your car seat after a fun day at the park because you just want to keep playing. I’ll try and stop rushing your play, and slow down and explain that we can come back another day.
My growing 3 year old. I expect you to say No. I expect you to ignore me when I’m asking you to do something because you just realized that you are your own person. I will try to listen to what you want to do before telling you what I think you should do. I expect you to be impulsive. It’s nearly impossible for you to control those urges, and you just really want to know what will happen if…
My independent 5 year old. I expect you to climb on the table. I’ll try to take you outside more often. I expect you to start giving me attitude because maybe I’ve given you attitude over the years. I’ll try to be more kind in my own words and teach you how to direct your cleverness into something good. I expect you to test the boundaries because you need to know that they exist in the world and in your world. I’ll try to help you feel more secure by gently and firmly making those more clear for you.
My brilliant 8 year old. I expect you to get distracted when you’re supposed to be cleaning your room. Maybe you just discovered an old toy or game that pulled you into more imaginative days. I’ll try to be more patient with you and ask you if I can play too.
My handsome 12 year old. I expect you to slam the door and give me flashbacks to when you were just 2. The mix of anger and testosterone are new feelings for you and you are learning how to handle them. I’ll try to let you feel your anger first and share with you about how I’ve learned to control my own over the years later.
My sensitive 16 year old. (This is getting emotional!) I expect you to drop the ball. (Whatever that may look like in 13 years) Your mind is preoccupied by other, more complicated-to-you things. Like relationships, like what you want to do “when you grow up” --because you’re probably starting to understand more deeply how imperfect the world is, and just how much pain society experiences. I’ll try not to shield you from such realities but instead show you how powerful love is and has been through history. I’ll try and encourage your talents but not fault you for your weaknesses.
My grown-up 18 year old. I don’t know what to expect from you at this point. I can only imagine what you’ll be like. But by now, I expect that through the years you’ve given as much grace to me and your Dad, and your siblings and your friends, as we’ve given you. I expect that you’re hopeful and expectant for your own future because you’re never alone and you’ve worked so hard through the years to become who you are today. (I’m not crying, you’re crying)
Ok. It may seem like I have low expectations for you, but that’s far from the truth. I expect you to be who you are in each stage of growth because that's the key word--growth. I don’t want you to feel the weight of guilt, shame, or judgement from the people you so deeply need approval and encouragement from.
My amazing son, I love you just the way you are. Happy (early) Birthday.