Zero expectations

Written by Lisa Tyson
Published on January 29, 2021

Expectations… they get me every time. 

When expectations are met, life is good. All is well. Everyone is happy. Everyone wins. I love it when life meets or exceeds my expectations. 

Then there is the other side of the expectation coin—when things don’t go as planned. 

Someone might be happy, but it isn’t you. Everyone knows: “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” 

Toddlerhood: On broccoli and cookies

When kids are little, the expectation game is somewhat unpredictable. 

There is the whole “best laid plan” thing. We simply have to roll with whatever comes. 

We can (mostly) control our little people. They go where we take them. They eat what we feed them. They wear what we buy them. 

If they need a haircut, it’s our fault. We have a phone to make the appointment, the car keys to drive them, and the debit card to pay for the service. We have all the power to make it happen. 

For my kids, if I offer a cookie without the condition of first eating their vegetables, they’d go straight for the cookie. 

I do not expect them to willingly choose broccoli, just because they know it’s good for them.

Fully-funded freedom

Fast forward to the teen and young adult years. 

These are the years when they expect fully-funded and insured independence. 

Yes… you read it right. 

They expect to be able to do exactly what they want to do, go where they want to go, and eat what they want to eat. And they expect to do as they please while we provide food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and educational expenses. 

Of course they have “their” money, but it doesn’t fully support the lifestyle they prefer. 

The friction caused by unmet expectations, either perceived or actual, causes a dissonance. 

A material dissonance

Sometimes, it’s a material dissonance. 

Their wants aren’t fulfilled by our offerings. They can either accept what we offer, or make up the difference with their own money. This is generally when we find out how important the “want” is to them. 

Material dissonance is annoying. 

I don’t experience a great amount of material dissonance with my boys. My daughter is another story. As she heads full steam into her teen years, material dissonance is beginning to surface. 

No one likes to “settle” for something less than they expect. It is a spirit of entitlement that often runs rampant in our society. 

Help them seek the intangible

As my kids have grown, it isn’t the unmet material expectations that get me as a mom. It is a completely different side of expectations that sometimes goes unmet. 

My children have become really great at dealing with the tangible. 

The intangible is what has become hard. When we expect them to make certain choices in how they approach life—their time management, their money management, their spiritual development, their alcohol consumption, or their purity—we are asking them to seek an intangible reward.

We (moms) have a certain expectation when we send our kids out into the world. 

We expect—and hope and pray—that they will live the way we raised them to live when they are gone. We expect them to come home to see us. And we expect that they will be excited to spend time with us when they do come home. 

In their mind, they probably did. They saw us each time they walked in and out of our doors to see their friends and “do their thing.” 

But we want the conversation, the fellowship, the stories they are telling all of their friends…. Sometimes, what is considered “typical college behavior,” sends a parent’s expectations spinning into uncharted territory. 

Raising “adults” isn’t easy

We wonder where we fit into their pre-adult lives (hang on, mama, they still need you). 

We might wonder what we did wrong (nothing). 

We may try to remember if we were that self-absorbed when we were in college (yes—just ask your parents). 

I recently saw a quote that said: “Adulting is like looking both ways before you cross the street, and then getting hit by an airplane.” I think that the same can be said about watching your children “adult.” 

You can plan for every scenario. Have every conversation. Pray all of the prayers. 

But at the end of the day, our kids’ decisions fall squarely on their shoulders. 

Place your expectations in him

I know a whole lot of moms whose kids have met every expectation they have had for them. 

They went to the right school, pledged the right sorority/fraternity, joined the right church, made the right decisions, married the right person, landed the right job. Their moms lived happily ever after in the bliss of an Insta-perfect parenting journey. 

I also know a lot of moms whose kids are struggling to figure out who they are as people and who they are in Christ. 

And while their children do many things that make their parents’ pride soar, they aren’t perfect. They make some choices that leave their parents asking: “Who are you and what have you done with the child I raised?” 

Hear me on this: we can have all of the expectations in the world—but it is out of our control. Their adulting and spiritual development has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with me either. 

There is only one Father in whom we can place all of our expectations, and it is in the one who placed these adult-ish children in our lives. 

He is trustworthy. 

He is a good, good Father. 

He does not stop leading us as mothers. And he doesn’t stop holding our lambs close to his heart… even when our “little lambs” are all grown up.

He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
—Isaiah 40:11

Looking for other additional resources? Check out the video below:

Live perfectly imperfect

Get daily emails with practical and spiritual advice geared towards helping you set aside perfect and grow into the parent you want to be every day.

Lisa Tyson

My name is Lisa Tyson. I am a Baylor graduate, have been married to the only man I have ever loved for the past 24 years, and we have 3 perfectly imperfect children — 20 (rising Jr. at Texas Tech), 17 (rising Senior), and 12 (rising 7th grader). Our oldest two are boys and the youngest is a sweet and spicy girl. I run my own practice as an Educational Diagnostician working with school districts to identify and serve their bilingual students while my husband works in the Operations Department for our church. I speak Spanish fluency and I love to read and scrapbook. One of my many life verses is, “She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future” (Proverbs 31:25). I am far from an Insta-mazing wife and mom — we eat the same leftovers over and over, I forget every picture day, and I had to buy my middle child new socks and underwear when I packed all of his and sent them to college with his brother (in an effort to not forget anything). But one thing I do well is this: I remember that the Lord has lavished us with His grace and nothing that touches our family is by accident. So we press on and push through knowing that He has always been faithful — no matter what.

Read more about Lisa

You may also like…

Privacy Preference Center