“yah that was better than i expected”
“what did you expect?”
“we expect more than that”
i didn’t want to write today, but knew i had to.

we had a nice visit this weekend with more family from wisconsin. the girls, and we, loved having another set of grandparents in town. it is neat to watch how they act around their grandparents – you can see the release that comes from having familiar faces from home – that aren’t ours. they loved showing off their achievements, tricks, bedrooms, developed pouts, swimming moves, and new city. this morning was “departure day”. we dropped them off at the airport (grandparents not kids) before a.’s gymnastics class. a. is at the age where it makes her sad when people leave, h. is somewhat clueless. while a. cried in the backseat, h. was swiping at them to go. i could hear a few sentences through a.’s cries as we drove away from the airport, “i don’t want to go to gymnastics” and “ice cream is all that will help”. we went to gymnastics and had ice cream afterwards.

a. is getting along well in gymnastics. the two other girls in her class have been in gymnastics classes before, and are definitely more advanced, i love watching a. learn something completely new. she has a gymnasts body? so it seems. short and strong. or is that what every 4 year-olds body looks like, and those better equip to be gymnasts stay proportioned that way? anyhow, today i was watching her struggle to commit to her somersaults and moved my body along with every cart-wheel attempt. much like when i play john madden’s football video game or try to move my ball to the left while bowling. as she concentrated on new moves, her little tongue was stuck to the side of the corner of her lips – i know where that comes from. a. was out there trying hard, watching how the other girls do it, all the while her dad smiling when the teacher gives her attention. it feels as good to hear him say her name, as it does to hear someone i just met refer to me by name. they know me by name? wow. i don’t have any expectations for her in the class. well, i do expect that she will listen to her teacher and get along with the other kids, but i don’t expect that she is going to turn out to be the next mary lou retton. similarly, r. was outside pitching balls to her last night, while h. and i were taking skateboard rides down the road. now, i know that r. has certain desires, expectations?, for the girls and their athletic abilities, but r. is not overbearing and weird about it – i think what she gives the girls is focus. she doesn’t “get on them” for not hitting the ball, she just wants them to focus on what they are doing. r.’s smile grew with every wiffle ball that a. made contact with, as mine had when she was concentrating on her tumbles. we have agreed that we don’t want to push the kids too hard in any one direction (athletics, music, academics). we feel that they could lose interest in the activity because our expectations superseded their enjoyment and expectations of themselves. i mean, 50 push-ups and 6 laps around the house for not “presenting” after a dismount is so she knows we noticed, and i am sure they enjoy the time alone in their room when they fail to set the bat down after getting a hit – this is normal. we simply can’t accept one goal a quarter in soccer.

all kidding aside?
while i understand the reasons we don’t want to “push the kids too hard”, i maintain that we need to push them into situations that may be uncomfortable or ones that we, as parents, know are best for them. if we notice that a. or h. has a talent for playing the drums, i think that it would be a disservice to them if we excuse them for practicing because they “don’t want to”. of course there is an age appropriateness to this, but becoming good at something takes discipline – we all need someone to push us. would you encourage your child to go out for soccer if you knew they wouldn’t make the team? right now my answer is yes. as much as it will hurt watching their disappointment, i think it is something that is necessary to growth. that something is failure. everyday i write this blog i have to focus. some days it is easier than others. some passages i re-read and think i nailed it – others i get embarrassed reading my own words, but i told myself that regardless of how i felt, i would write, and that i would try to get better. even if it isn’t “getting better”, that i would have the discipline to finish something. this is something that i struggle with. i have ideas coming out of every orifice of my body. i start a project full-steam and two months, weeks, days, minutes later i walk away. it’s frustrating. i’m not sure why i “give up” on my projects. is it because i lose interest? or simply because i don’t want to invest the time that it takes to perfect something. doing what comes naturally, is, well, doing what comes naturally. do i push myself enough? i am trying. it is far too easy to get stuck in life patterns. now, there is nothing wrong with finding a groove that suits you and running that course until your death, but i can’t do that. i want to push myself into uncomfortable positions. i want to work on my breathing when i go into an intimidating meeting. i want to be laughed at. i want to wonder what others are thinking when i strike out swinging – in t-ball. i want all of these things, and i want to come out the other side knowing that i’m more because of it. shedding the skin of fear and getting smaller is a sign of needing less from the outside world and developing a deeper understanding of yourself. i want these things, but need to be pushed into them. we want these things for a. and h., and we are working on our role in it.

i know that i expect a lot out of those that i love. i’m unrealistic at times. probably more so with my expectations of myself. i just struggle with accepting people for who they are. i get the concept. i’m not saying “who they are” as individuals, but who they are as if they won’t be developing into anything else. or are done trying. we can’t expect that others will view the world the way we do, or that they will have the same want to do things the way that we see they should be done – i am learning that. i don’t want people to do things the way i do. i just want them to care about trying to do them better. why settle. with that i think we need to build one another up when we notice an achievement. i don’t care if you could type 60 words a minute in third grade – i am 34 and just got there. this is hard, but why do we excuse some people? why do we accept that is the best they can be. one thing that was the clearest in my teaching experience was the more we expected – the more we got. some of the kids that we taught had been written off by other teachers – perhaps because they didn’t have the time or resources to give the students what they needed. as we pushed them past their limits, agitating them further at times, we were able to give them something beyond math,reading, or writing. they developed an ability to push themselves harder, to demand more of those around them, and to not settle for things the way they were.

we need to push one another. we need to demand more. but, we need to do these things with the right intentions. not to hurt or to make ourselves feel better, but to elevate each of us to a better being.
okay, that was pretty over the top. true enough, but now that i breathed after that last paragraph, let me say this. i don’t want to push our kids to fold, i want to push them to open up.

we are getting back into routine this week. visits are awesome, but i’m a sucker for routine.