As a child, we shoot for the moon and stars. Nothing can stop us. No one can tell us no. We're stubborn and determined and don't understand that it's not always possible to have it all. However, as adults, we become wiser. We shoot for only the moon and are pleased when we not only get that but the stars too. What's happened is we've learned to adjust our expectations based on previous experiences, many of which were formulated during childhood.
In my life, I've looked at relationships as a give/take where I expect the moon and often get maybe the clouds. Other times you get the sun and stars and more. But unfortunately, I think it's the times of disappointment that shape our future expectations.
I originally planned on writing this blog while in the US to see how everything fared with what I had hoped and expected. But now after 2 1/2 weeks back in Spain and realizing that my life is one of dual continents and where the one here has a constantly changing landscape, I actually think the timing is better now.
As I mentioned before, I think a lot of who we are and how we form relationships happens as a result of our childhood. When I was home with the kids, I spent a lot of time observing their interaction with their friends and with adults. Liam is the more easy going of the two, so let's focus on Aidan. Aidan is all about being with his friends when we are home. Hey, who can blame him? Who wants to spend time with family if you can be with kids your own age? I remember what it's like to be a kid and having to spend the obligatory time with family when I just wanted to run around the neighborhood. However, that being said, I also understand and appreciate the value of quality time with family and I want my boys to learn that as well. While I can't force them to enjoy every moment, I can teach them to appreciate the time they spend with them. And to love them for who they are no matter what they can offer in terms of emotional or physical (presence) support.
Everyone builds relationships differently. Josh has always said that I set my sights too high and therefore am disappointed in the end. Not everyone can give in the ways that I can and vice versa - I can't always give to others in the way that they want or need. I actually had a conversation with a friend about this yesterday - people give differently - some through words, some through physical action, and so on and so on. So maybe I've been setting these expectations with people and thinking they will give in one way when in fact, that's not the way they are wired to give.
But what I've recognized is that sadly, people will always let you down and while there are plenty that don't let you down, it's those that do that you remember and that you then shield yourself from when building future relationships. However, I think most days, I don't really pay that much attention to my expectations of others. I know what I can and can't expect (for the most part) of my core group of friends and family - what they are capable and not capable of giving and what I am able to give back to them emotionally, etc. It's not til it affects others that I open my eyes a bit more and recognize that sometimes these can be tough lessons learned.
Let me get back to Aidan again because let's face it, while I've had my share of highlights and disappointments, this really comes down to the lessons we are learning while living abroad. And while living here has certainly enhanced my ability to cull out those who will let me down versus those who support me as well as setting my bar accordingly, Aidan is the one who's been learning this lesson the most. And it's not just about people letting you down - expectations are not just about that. I think it's also about what you expect of life.
While I'm certainly not going to call anyone particular out, I would never do that, Aidan had a few issues at home. He had his eyes set on the moon and stars when it came to being with some people and unfortunately those people weren't capable of giving him the moon and stars, and it wasn't because they don't love him or want to hurt him. I don't think this is the case at all, but Aidan doesn't see it this way. And to me there is nothing worse than seeing your child's heart breaking. And hearing them sobbing (not just crying) in the car only adds to the sadness... at age 8, Aidan is having to learn that not everyone is going to meet his standards. It's a tough lesson to learn at age 8.
And because he's getting this he's now starting to set boundaries. Because not only did he feel let down at home, but now he's back in Barcelona and people are leaving. Now I know that this is a bit different than setting expectations, his friends can't control how long they stay here. But I think in a way this goes hand in hand. He has these expectations of a lasting friendship and then the kids leave. Yes, I know they can and will still be his friends but remember, Aidan is 8, he works in the NOW, not in the future. He can't focus on the fact that we'll go visit some of these friends next year. He can only focus on the "betrayal" of them leaving right now. And he has already said he doesn't want to have any friends this year. He's setting up defense mechanisms because he's been let down. Kind of like we do when people can't meet our expectations. See what I mean by hand in hand?
All I can do at this point is to encourage Aidan to continue to put himself out there. He has met a local kid recently through summer camp and they have a playdate tonight. He wasn't sure about going but I told him this is important, that he has to have friends and that this friend, for the moment, isn't going anywhere. He needs to learn about diversifying your base - again, sad at age 8 that he has to learn to protect himself but he does. And as far as at home, he's already learned that next year he needs to lower his expectations and maybe those people will actually rise to the occasion but if they don't he won't be any worse for the wear.
In the end, I think it's good to reach for the moon - we all should put ourselves out there because we might be pleasantly surprised. But recognize that sometimes all you'll get is swiss cheese...