A few weeks ago, Frederic Gray, a good friend and gospel preacher, stayed in my home while preaching for the special youth seminar the church here in Grinnell hosted. The whole week was filled with all wonderful lessons and I got extra spoiled as I got special one on one time with him to talk more about the lessons each night. In one of his lessons he talked about the key to lifelong happiness. In that lesson he talked about our expectations verse our reality. When our expectations fail to meet our reality we end up feeling discouraged. When it happens over and over it can destroy any hope of happiness. The problem is not that they don’t match. It happens to us all. When it becomes a real problem is when we try to fix that inequality. More often than not we try to change the reality. And more often than not, reality isn’t changing. Thus, we end up in a seemingly endless cycle of sadness and discouragement. As we discussed this lesson, I began to wonder how much I hurt my children’ hope of happiness by pushing them into this endless cycle.
My eldest daughter loves to run. Her love for running is what got me into running. It was something that we could do together. She has run several 5ks. She competed in cross country this year and currently is participating in track and field. My daughter is not the fastest kid. She is not winning ribbons. While she is on the cusp of being able to place (just a few seconds here and there), she hasn’t gotten there yet. Last night, while watching her compete I caught myself doing something very dangerous. I caught myself setting her up for failure. I was expecting her to do better than she can do right now and showing started seeing in her eyes disappointment. Her reality was not measuring up to my expectations and she was getting discouraged. While I would always encourage my children to do their best, I need to be certain that they understand that I am always proud when they do their best. I need to be certain that they understand that I am always proud when they try hard. There is always going to be someone faster, stronger, smarter, etc. I don’t want to be that Dad that yells at the coach for not permitting my son or daughter to be the starter. I don’t want to be that Dad who ends up trying to either relive his glory days or have a glory that he never had through his children. I don’t want my children growing up believing that despite their best efforts that they disappointed me.