26 March, 2015

Clash of parenting expectations

Something's gotten under my skin and I'm having trouble letting it go, so I'm going to write about it.
Our boys have met a lot of people over the
year. They've done really well.

Last week we had a picnic lunch with a missionary family. They're home, doing the same thing as us, but over a shorter period. They are also doing their first home assignment with a child. They admitted it was different. It affected how crowded they allowed their schedule to get and they've made sure they factored in family down-time. That was all new for them.

We've never done any deputation without a child (oh, a couple of low-key months before our eldest was born, before we left for Japan the first time). So we're quite aware of how to  do this type of work with children in tow. OUR children in tow. We know our boys well and make judgment calls all the time as to how much we expect of them. It is a fine balancing act, keeping our expectations within the limits of what we can all cope with as a family.

I've written a couple of times previously about the challenges of parenting during this year (for example in Perth). It's not easy.

Our family is largely made up of introverts. As a family we get overwhelmed by a lot of social time. 
Our family has active boys. As a family we struggle if they are required to sit quietly and converse or listen to conversation for long periods of time.
Our family has three intelligent boys. As a family we struggle if they find themselves bored. Polite conversation is not sufficient to engage them for long periods.

In general people have been wonderful about accommodating us. We've had someone hold an event at a venue with a pool so the boys could swim while we talked. We even had one family plan a "private movie party" for our boys while we talked with the family for a few hours, astutely discerning that our boys needed some time-out from people at that particular time.

I am frustrated when people place expectations on us that we judge to be too big or unrealistic for our family to cope with. Especially when it is implied that our kids are not "up to the standard" that people expect of their own kids. Perhaps I'm being too sensitive.

What people who have unrealistic expectations of us (and there actually haven't been too many) generally don't get is the bigger picture. We spend a lot of time socialising during this year. Yes, we speak at meetings and at churches, but the majority of our time is talking informally to people, primarily answering questions. Mostly answering the same questions.

Our weekends can be full of doing stuff that is stressful (given the above dynamics of our family). The boys have spent the year meeting people they can't remember ever meeting before. Putting up with us having myriad conversations that they aren't interested in, because they've heard most of it before. Few people try to engage our boys, they get stuck on the fringes waiting for us time and time again.

So no, I won't apologise for looking after my family's wellbeing. For having lower expectations of them in a particular situation than others might deem prudent. They've done a magnificent job coping with many different churches, lots of travel, and meeting many new people. Not to mention a move to a country they don't know a lot about, leaving behind friends and familiar places, and a change of schools and churches.


Sarah said...

Very well said, Wendy! That is a lot for anyone to cope with, especially kids who are introverts. Well done to your boys. It annoys me too when churches put high expectations on Christians to do lots of 'stuff'. It especially annoys me when new mums are expected to just carry on with their church involvement to the same level, as if they'd never had a baby.

Wendy said...

Thanks Sarah. Actually the problems we've had recently have more been with people who have many children and different expectations.

Sarah said...

I've experienced that, too. Some people with lots of kids find it easier to get out and about and automatically assume everyone's like them.