One of the greatest sources of conflict for any of us is unmet expectations. So many of the low moments in my life are when people didn’t behave the way I thought they should or hoped they would. At the same time there are an equal amount (if not more) of moments where others are disappointed because I didn’t meet their expectations.
Welcome to earth, third rock from the sun as the old song goes.
Expectations are difficult because they are complicated. It is wrong to place expectations on others without informing them first. You should also remember that a voiced expectation does not necessarily create an environment where others have to do what you want.
We’ve been involved in the ministry of foster care and adoption for a decade now and I have realized certain truths along the way. They should be self evident but yet they still seem to catch us off guard.
One of the expectations we have is that our foster kids should be treated like they are a permanent part of the family no matter how long they were with us. On the face of it that seems like it should be that way. They didn’t do anything that caused them to be moved from their family into our different and usually temporary family. They have been uprooted and we want them to feel like they are a part of our family while they are with us. We want them to feel like they belong.
That is a fine expectation for us to place on us, but is it reasonable to place it on others? We signed up for this, but did the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins sign up too? Generally yes, they are instructed to love their neighbor the way they love themselves, but specifically, no, I don’t think they did. Just like the kids never asked to be in foster care our extended family and friends didn’t ask to be in foster care either.
I can remember being frustrated when I was told that “not all of the kids” could spend the night. But I’ve come to realize that emotional fatigue starts to set in for the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We ask them to make an emotional investment and when they do the kids go back to their families. That’s hard on us and sometimes we forget that it’s hard on others too.
This situation presents a great opportunity for all of us to learn about grace. We need to show grace to the extended family in the same way that they need to show grace to the kids. Because when all is said and done nothing else matters.
Are you a foster parent who can relate?