Relations & Expectations

Teagan has, since her birth, been known to all of us as the little sister. The baby sister. That changed the day that Quinn came. Teagan’s now wearing two hats in our family – little sister to Ani, and big sister to Quinn.1

How we identify her is in large part via her relationships to others. How she identifies herself is tied up in those relationships, too. Rightly or wrongly.

And I’ve seen Teagan change her behavior to match the role that she’s filling at any one moment, alternately trying on the big and little sister roles to see which fit any given situation. She’s fiddling with expectation and agency. It’s fascinating to watch, particularly as the role of big sister is a new one for her. But she’s picking it up quite nicely.

All of the above to say this – I know that the people around us will rise to the level of expectation we have for them, which is why we should always set high expectations.2

But I’m re-realizing this morning that our expectations and relationships and even our identities are wrapped up in our relationships with others.

And I’m thinking about how I can honor existing relationships while building better ones in the context of high expectations.

How do we, I wonder, work to build, support and sustain roles and relationships that help us all to aim high and be better?

That’s a heavy question for a Monday, but a good reminder for the week.

  1. There are several other hats or roles that she wears, but you get the idea. []
  2. One reason Teagan is a great big sister is that we believed that she would be and we told her so. Had we said that she wouldn’t be able to handle it, she probably wouldn’t have. Funny how that works, and how we so often tell people that they’ll be unsuccessful before we even let them try. []

11 thoughts on “Relations & Expectations

  1. How do we define, “better?” If there is a better, should we be ranking our relationships? Do we have responsibilities for the role of others? How often do we get to co-define roles and relationships? Do our expectations really influence the behavior of others, or simply color our interpretation of their motives?
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Scratch =-.

  2. Great question Bud,
    How do we, I wonder, work to build, support and sustain roles and relationships that help us all to aim high and be better?
    I think in answering that it is important not to confuse ‘relationship’ with ‘comfort’ or similar words. Discomfort is necessary in aiming high and in positive relationships. If your kid balls her eyes out the first 3, 4 or 7 times she gets on a bicycle, you don’t say, “Guess she’ll never ride a bike!”
    We need to build good relationships so that we can challenge each other and be challenged ourselves… so that we can go beyond the point of frustration, to the brink of an epiphany, to the edge of chaos, and know that should we falter… we have the strength of those around us to support us and see as through the difficulty.
    I don’t think I’m providing an answer per-se, just pointing out that sustaining good relationships means being able to go to the hard places rather than avoiding them ‘to save a relationships’ or so as ‘not to hurt anyone’.
    .-= David Truss´s last blog ..Google Buzz and George Costanza – Worlds Collide =-.

  3. I’m not sure that “better” necessarily entails the ranking of relationships in the sense of one person ranking higher than another.

    I’m reminded very much of Frank Smith’s little book: “We learn from the company we keep.”

    The way I see it, living up to high expectations in the way Bud discusses them here is more a matter of comparing yourself to yourself – yesterday – and trying to be a little bit better today. Inevitably all this occurs in the dynamic interplay of the relationships we have with the important people in our lives. So there will be some comparisons made with others but the real growth comes out of the reflective stance that comes from asking: Who am I?

    Does that make sense?

    There’s a lot to unpack in this brief, insightful observation you’ve made of your girls Bud. Thanks for that, and congratulations again to all you! Every day with kids is such a blessing.

  4. Hmmm… I don’t see it in terms of “better” or ranking. It’s more about how to create “safe space” for people to grow and be in relationship with me and each other.

    In one of my first jobs, my manager was a great mentor and we’d often sit and talk over coffee. Something I’ve always remembered from those talks was her saying “Always remember that people live UP TO or DOWN TO our expectations – chose to believe in people!”

    This wasn’t about judging what was right or good or better – it was about believing that people want to be their best, about highlighting the successes and helping them learn from mistakes (rather than dwell on them). And something I’ve learned since is that what’s in my head matters – no matter what I say. If I believe in someone, that person can sense it and will trust (or not trust) my words based on that feeling.

    So authentic belief in a person creates a space that supports them in their own growth, capacity for risk taking, and belief in themselves.

    And other people who also aspire to such authentic kindness, compassion and growth are the people I want to surround myself with as well – so that I can be supported in my own growth!

    That last point has been a struggle for me to understand, I must admit – how do I reconcile my belief in supporting others in their growth and my own needs? Is it judgmental to say “I don’t want to be with you?” to someone that is constantly undermining my own growth? How do I accept someone for who he/she is, but choose not to be around them?

    It’s coming down to how I choose my “inner” circle of closest relationships. In that inner circle, I choose to surround myself with people who have similar beliefs and aspirations, rather than people with toxic habits/beliefs (that whole “flying with eagles” thing). In life, however, I work to accept and support all to grow/learn.

    Like Darren, I’ll ask – does that make sense?

    And congratulations to you and your family too! Children are such amazing gifts!!

    @hhg
    .-= Heidi´s last blog ..Watching Me =-.

  5. Always the eternal optimist, Bud. I love that about you.
    What is true and happening in your life does not necessarily extend to everyone.
    While I do believe in setting high expectations for those I have relationships with, it does not always work out that they “will rise to the level of expectation we have for them”.
    Sometimes expectations can breed disaster– especially in personal relationships.
    Not to say that you shouldn’t have expectations…. you should just be willing to accept the consequences, and perhaps have a contingency plan, should your expectations not be met.

    1. I won’t disagree with you, Becky. You’re right to raise the point. People won’t always rise. And that’s too bad, but outside of our control.

      But they’ll never rise unless someone, be it their own self or others or, preferably, both, believe in them. And who wants to start from a place of doubt?

  6. This post is very timely for me: for the first time EVER, a parent told me she thought I was strict. I think my jaw was on the ground, b/c I’m a pretty FUN easy going teacher and again, no one has ever said that before. The parent started to give some examples and I am proud to say that my response was, “I have high expectations for my students and it’s my goal, my job, to see that all students have the opportunity to reach those expectations (including her daughter). This involves maintaining a calm and respectful classroom where students are focused on their learning. I have many struggling students that are my pride & joy b/c they are trying to meet the high expectations I set. I have several high achieving students that are thorns in my side b/c they feel they do not need to meet any expectations (even at home). The joy of teaching. And the same in my home: my children (almost 5 & 3) are clearing the table, sweeping up their crumbs and picking up ponies & trains before bed. They’ve been taught how to accomplish these tasks at their level (they have a broom/dust pan set that they can reach) and are praised for helping the family. Am I strict? Maybe. I just don’t like that word!

  7. Congratulations on your growing family, Bud. It’s interesting to see the roles adjust, isn’t it? I thinking having a shared sense of identity helps everyone feel that they “belong”. That might come from a shared purpose, experience or affiliation.
    BTW – I am one of seven children. My mom says whenever another baby came along it was the “new baby” and the one just before it became the “old baby.” 🙂

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