There was a time when, if someone had asked me what my expectations were for my kids, I would have said I had none.
But, it would have been a lie.
Because even though I didn't consciously believe I had expectations for my kids, I did. I expected they would (and, in some cases, will) grow up to graduate high school, go on to college, get a degree, get married, and have a family.
There would obviously be some bumps/bruises along the road (after all, no one grows up without them).
This would all be based (loosely) on the course of my own life, on how my husband's life has developed, on how my brothers and their wives walked a similar path, and how most, if not all, of my friends' lives have progressed.
So, even though I would have said something like, "I don't expect my kids grow up to become anything in particular, but I would like them to be happy people who find their path to contributing to the world in some positive way", that statement would not have been completely true.
While I don't yet know where my youngest three kids will cause me to grow (because kids are terrific at finding just the way to help you do that, if you let them), my oldest two sons are walking paths I wouldn't have necessarily (a) chosen for them, or (b) would have guessed they'd take.
My oldest son, Nick, is soon to be twenty-eight. He works full-time in the computer field, has been in the same relationship for five years with no immediate plan to marry, they have rescued a wonderful border collie whom I sometimes joke is my "grand dog". Nick started college, but hasn't finished. He may or may not decide to do so, nonetheless he's been able to find employment in a field he enjoys, and he continues to be promoted to positions that personally challenge him.
Allen-Michael, twenty-two, is about to leave for his senior year of college. He interrupted his education for a year in 2013 to spend time traveling the country with a van full of twenty-somethings on a mission to bring their love of the Catholic faith to middle school students. He's since spent a semester in Rome, and has been open about his discernment to the priesthood. Knowing he is diligent about spending time with his younger siblings, he has worked many summers as a youth camp counselor and in teaching tennis to young people, I have had to adjust to the idea that even though I think he'd make a wonderful husband and father, he is feeling strongly called in a direction that would not allow either of those things to become a reality. As my friend Katherine once said to me, "Kim, maybe he isn't meant to be a dad to a few, but a father to many." (That statement still makes me tear up).
Often what we say as parents is that we want our kids to grow up to be "happy". You and I both know happiness is not a constant state of being, and we have to admit there is nothing we could ever do that would guarantee this for our offspring. What we can do, instead of trying to "strongly suggest" (force) them into a place/profession/path we think is right for them, is to support and encourage them right where they are, so they know no matter what choice they make they will always have us by their sides.
I have used this video in a previous post, but think it really encapsulates the idea that as moms and dads our most important role is to love unconditionally and to know there is a bigger picture than what we might have planned, or expected...