It’s Impossible to Live Up to Your High Expectations of Me
By Janice Quirt
Photo © genna.contento/Twenty20
Oct 20, 2020
As a child of the ‘80s, I have probably watched the movie Labyrinth 50 times.
I mean, Jim Henson puppets and David Bowie as the Goblin King? Genius.
And although I didn’t realize it at the time, Bowie’s character in the movie utters a line that, for me, perfectly encapsulates parenthood: “Everything! Everything that you wanted I have done… I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down. And I have done it all for you. I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me.”
Can anyone relate?
Sure, it’s great that my kids think that I‘m an expert on all things. I’m even flattered when they are shocked and surprised when I make a mistake, or can’t fix everything that ails the world. But really, it’s also absolutely draining to try to get everything right and fight every injustice.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have high expectations for myself, my family and for society. And I don’t mean that I expect my kids to bring home straight As, or to give all of their allowance to charity. I do always hope that as a family, we are striving to be good people, kind to others, keep learning from our mistakes, and are accountable for our good and not-so-good actions. But I definitely make mistakes, even as I strive to create change. And those mistakes tend to shock and, to a lesser extent, maybe even delight my family.
Here are a few examples, what I’m learning from them, and how I’m trying to not be quite so exhausted all the time.
Learning to let go during the pandemic gave this dad the drive to be an effective parent. Read about that here.
Lego Let Go
At age 14, my son is starting to let go of toys, and recently decided to retire a substantial portion of his Lego collection. Our neighbours have younger kids, two girls and a boy. When my son was looking to donate his Lego, I suggested that we see if they were interested.
Except, I goofed. I specifically said that the neighbour’s son might want the Lego, and my partner jumped on the statement with good-natured glee because I didn’t include the girls.
His reaction was probably because I have always been a staunch defender of girls and women following any career, hobby or passion that strikes their fancy, especially those in STEM. And in our blended family, the four daughters have certainly enjoyed their share of Lego. I loved it as a kid, too. And still, I messed up and called out the neighbour’s son as the would-be recipient of the Lego rather than the girls.
And my family pounced on me, teasing about how girls like to play with Lego as much as boys do.
"I specifically said that the neighbour’s son might want the Lego, and my partner jumped on the statement with good-natured glee because I didn’t include the girls."
And it’s true. I absolutely should have included the girls in my thoughts about who would like to receive this stockpile of Lego. And usually I do. But I goofed that time, and it made me realize that it is so easy to fall into old patterns of thinking. In my case, I thought of the son because he and I had previously enjoyed some great discussions about Lego and his passion for it.
But when I offered the Lego to my neighbour friend, I was careful to mention that it was intended for all. And she reported back that they were all — boys and girls — having fun with it.
So yes, I made a mistake and I need to remind myself to always have my feminist hat on; my girl power radar turned on high.
And I’m glad my family pointed out my mistake, because I want and need to keep trying — even when, especially when, I’m tired.
Pandemic Privilege — do you have it? Read about what this author believes that means here.
I try really, really hard to live my life as sustainably as possible.
But the pandemic has made that more challenging than usual. I can still remember the look on my kids’ faces when I came home from grocery shopping with a scary number of plastic bags, because the store no longer allowed reusable bags. They were aghast, having been raised to employ reusable bags and containers as much as possible, and wondering how I could let this happen.
I explained to them the fact that the bulk store was no longer accepting reusable glass jars, and the grocery store had temporarily banned reusable totes. But they were sad and afraid about the damage this was causing to the environment.
"They were aghast, having been raised to employ reusable bags and containers as much as possible, and wondering how I could let this happen."
I couldn’t blame them, as I feel sad and discouraged about the environmental impact of the pandemic as well. But I used it as a good lesson in accepting what we can and cannot do or change.
We can’t overturn a store’s decision, but we can do our best to find options, like packing the food back into the grocery cart after paying and loading up totes in the car.
We pledged to try to offset the environmental impact of the pandemic by planting trees and plants, growing our own produce and pollinator-friendly plants, and donating to our favourite environmental charities. It was more work, yes, because it wasn’t one of our ingrained environmental habits. But it was an example of living our values, and it taught my kids how to channel their disappointment in the changes to environmentally friendly practices.
This mother was going through some lean times. Here's how she made her low income work for her family. Read that here.
Social Justice Snooze
My kids have educated themselves and are on top of every news story and hashtag. They are more aware than most parents. And so I feel that once again I have failed and that I am not living up to expectations. I failed to learn every relevant and inappropriate hashtag concerning social injustice in the first 24 hours. I desperately tried to stay on top of every new and developing addition to the news cycle.
But I wasn’t as aware as the teens and 20-somethings in my life. They were demanding change and up to date on every stand and stance. I had a deadline one day, and I didn't read news and social media, and felt like I woke up to a world in which I didn’t know the rules, players or exactly what I was supposed to say or do.
I felt like I had failed the human rights and social activist movements and expectations, even as members of my family were passionately pleading for change.
"It’s hard to live up to your own ideals, or the ideals of others."
It wasn’t for a lack of wanting the world to be different or to be better. It was simply that at certain times in my life, I don’t have the same time or mental stamina to dedicate to the cause that I would like to. I don’t have limitless reserves or energy and passion to pour into every wrong in the world. And so from time to time I have to draw boundaries and turn the news off, try to shore up my mental health and desperately attempt to see the good in people and society rather than the horrible acts that have played out in both recent and not-so-recent times.
I feel like I’ve failed, but I’m also trying to show my kids that sometimes you have a give yourself a timeout and try to take care of yourself, not pass a social activist hashtag quiz. It’s hard to live up to your own ideals, or the ideals of others. It’s not possible to be perfect. An important lesson is choosing when to battle, and when to rest. Or when to try even harder, and when to draw boundaries. It’s as important for my kids to see me admit tiredness, or make mistakes, as it is to see me stand up for what I believe in.
It’s not always easy being a parent, or a Goblin King either. But I'm still going to try, and try so hard to do what is right and good in the world.
But I also plan to allow for mistakes and rest. David Bowie would no doubt agree.
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