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Managing Your Expectations

You can’t manage other people’s judgments but you can manage your own expectations, especially when it comes to parenting your own child. 

Toddler at the grocery store sad face

While I’m away teaching at the Florida Christian Writers Conference, I asked my good friend Sally Hall to share one of her blogs. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

We have this habit in our family of setting expectations of behavior before we go somewhere. It’s so routine now that I don’t always realize I’m doing it.

So when I recently lined up my two boys outside our local art museum to remind them of museum etiquette, I was a little startled when a lady sitting nearby commented not only on my “little gentlemen” but also on my little pre-field trip pep talk.

I had no idea we had an audience, I was just trying to keep the boys from making the curators and guards too nervous!

Of course, before I could get too big of a head about that nice moment, a few days later I found myself at Wal-Mart with a very stubborn two-year-old.

Ah, toddlers–the great equalizers.  

She wanted to walk around the store with me instead of riding in the cart, which is completely fine. Except since she’s a speedy little explorer, I held fast to my “in the cart or hold my hand” rule. That just was not working for her that day, and boy did she let me know!

There were quite a few shrill “NO!”s, with some stomping of her cute little feet and even some fierce dirty looks. Of course what she doesn’t know yet is that she gets her stubbornness from me.

So not to be outdone, I scooped her up, calmly put her into the shopping cart and headed back into the store. Her protests were still loudly taking place, but I just kept on rolling along and at this point just tried to distract her.

Wouldn’t you know it, we had an audience that day too, except this time I was painfully aware. Not only were there a few other moms giving me very kind, understanding looks, but there was also an older gentlemen who was sitting on the bench right next to the shopping carts–meaning he was front and center for my little girl’s show.

I kept glancing at him to gauge his response, waiting for him to either make a snide comment or offer some unsolicited advice. Not that it always happens, but every parent has experienced a comment or two from the well-meaning spectators.  

Without even meaning to, I had expectations that day as well, they just weren’t as positive. I mentally got my defenses up and quickly made my way down a different aisle.

Good, we made it away before the grumpy old man could say anything. The minute the thought entered my head I was ashamed. Ashamed, yet I still thought it. I just wanted to get my shopping done and make it home without any more incidents.

Thankfully, my baby girl was quickly distracted and by the time we checked out, she was back to her cheerful self. As we headed toward the exit I saw that our audience of one was still there and once again I mentally prepared myself for his judgment. This time he did say something…it just wasn’t what I expected.

With a chuckle he waved at her and said, “Good job, mom, you stuck to your guns, and she’s happier because of it.”

Oh boy. That burned more than an insult. Here I was worrying about his judging me, while all along I was the one doing the judging.

I was so caught up in my own embarrassment that I just assumed everyone was thinking as negatively as I was. But this man not only showed me compassion and encouragement, he most likely enjoyed the scene as it probably reminded him of his younger parenting years.  

The entire ride home from the store I couldn’t help but think how once again expectations set the course of my day. I had wasted time not only worrying what strangers thought about me, but also wrongly assuming.

I wonder how often we assume that others are judging us when in reality they just never openly voice their approval.

That day is a great reminder for me to not only do what I believe is right no matter my audience, but to realize that most people want you to succeed. Either way, I can’t control other people’s reactions, but I now know that controlling my expectations about them is pretty important as well.


Sally Hall is a part-time freelance writer, full-time wife, mom and homeschooler and a foodie at heart living in north Texas. She has written for a series of women’s travel books, homeschooling publications, international ministries and is currently finishing her own book! Follow her random musings over on her blog, Hall Adventures.

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