Have you heard the phrase: expectations are just premeditated resentments? It means if we have set expectations for an event, reaction or response, and it doesn’t happen the way we envision, think or expect, we may be disappointed and/or become resentful.
When it comes to individuals with a complex disability or different ability, like FASD, it happens when we expect them to meet certain standards we or Society have imposed, without considering their disability, individual skills, abilities, or interests, and when they don’t, we feel resentment. When in fact we set them up for failure with expectations that may have been unrealistic.
It can also apply to ourselves. This weekend I was reminded of both.
The Crone went to visit my brother. The maiden and I were going to be alone Thursday – Monday. A rare occasion. I knew I would have to book the time off. I work at home but without the Crone to keep the maiden company while I work (and no one else available), it was unlikely I would be left alone to work. I recognized her needs and was able to make that accommodation. This was also an opportunity for us to spend time together, which I was looking forward to.
I didn’t think I had expectations for her. I did not make plans for specific activities beyond our weekly grocery shop. But three weeks earlier I lost part of a filling and the soonest I could see my dentist was the Monday. She was aware of the change. I mentioned the only other thing I wanted some time to do was to start painting the kitchen. Something I kept putting off. But she could help. Except for Monday, we could be flexible. But there was one expectation.
From the first day there were quite a few changes, unforeseen, or “trying” events to our non-schedule. We were doing okay. But by Sunday night she was complaining of feeling sick. She wanted to go to the hospital because she didn’t ’feel right’. I reassured, soothed and comforted her. Told her if she didn’t improve, we would go to the hospital. She quite often has aches and pains that turn out to be minor and do not require a hospital visit. We are also in the midst of some other health issues and I always feel like I don’t know how to help her manage and we don’t have a responsive medical team despite my best advocacy efforts. I recognized this was a trigger for me. Despite that, I felt resentment creeping in.
If it was an emergency, I absolutely would reschedule the dentist. And if need be the Crone would have to change her return time or day. But based on previous experiences, and what I thought was causing the sick feeling, I felt confident it wasn’t an emergency.
But why the resentment? Even though I didn’t have expectations for her, or so I thought, I had expected we would have a relaxing weekend. Even so, there had been disruptions. I expected I could take care of my own health needs. I didn’t want to reschedule. I have dental anxiety. I had worked through it and was prepared for this appointment. But I wasn’t prepared for the possibility I would have to reschedule. And now I was triggered and resentful.
To bring me back to centre, I took some time to think things through and plan what might have to change. No hospital visit was necessary and I thought we were fine.
She woke up Monday saying she still did not feel well. I offered my idea: was she well enough to stay in the car, with a book, blanket, pillow, hot water bottle and a promise of cuddles from grandma during the drive home after we picked her up at the train station. She said yes, and she did. She watched a crane working on a building site to occupy her for the half-hour I was in the dental office.
As I sipped my coffee Tuesday morning, thinking what a sh*t show the weekend turned out to be, I tried to bring to mind the good parts of the weekend – because it wasn’t a complete disaster – even though it felt like one. Nothing that happened was an emergency. It was just a slow build. I was disappointed that we didn’t have a joyful weekend and in myself that I felt resentful.
I told someone how I was feeling – her response: start a gratitude journal. I understood she was trying to be helpful, but finding gratitude was not going to find solutions to the issues that we encountered all weekend. And I had already looked for the positives to be grateful for.
However, as a reflective person, one of the ways I learn and heal is through reflective work. It won’t change what happened, but it can change my perspective and hopefully how I respond next time. And that may prevent resentment from creeping in.
I realized I should not have booked the appointment when there was no one available for the maiden to stay with. I expected that she would be good to go. And she would have been if she wouldn’t have felt ill. We cannot plan when someone is going to be sick (or have a filling come out) but I could plan for the “what ifs”. I was also experiencing some grief and loss. Add to that my anxiety.
Once I was clear and calm, I also shared my thoughts with the maiden. About why I reacted the way I did and what I thought may have led to her not feeling well. I asked her thoughts. Some of what happened was in our control, and some wasn’t. She may remember next time … she may not. But I think we still need to help our kids process experiences, provide accommodations to the best of our ability and assure them we love them and will walk beside them and/or support them. And apologize when we don’t handle things well.
So if you find yourself reacting with frustration or feeling resentment creep in … even if you think you have reduced, changed or modified expectations or environment, I recommend taking time to reflect. Did you really have no expectations? Keep in mind they might be subtle and not so obvious. Things will happen. Our kids have a disability. We can’t change that. But if we reflect, we can make changes to what we do, how we feel and respond.
This isn’t easy inner work. Especially if it was not modelled for us growing up. Our situation is further complicated because we do not have an in-person support network to call on. I did have some virtual support, which helped me process. This experience reminded me we need to be where services and supports are available. Part of the long-term plan.
Here’s hoping your Easter Weekend went smooth … and if not, I hope you give yourself and your child grace and can spend time reflecting and responding rather than reacting and resenting.