It started with a clip board circulating at one of our Sunday church meetings. At the top was a description of a service opportunity for families. A certain nursing home in our area was the focus of the service and those willing to visit an elderly resident of the nursing home for four consecutive weeks were asked to sign their name. We added our name to the list.
A week or so later Roxanne went to get the name of the resident we would be visiting. Rather than sort through index cards to find one that would be most “comfortable” to visit (probably something I would be tempted to do) Roxanne drew a name randomly. We had all become more accustomed to visiting the dementia patients from the time we spent visiting her father in a similar facility. Little did we know that when she pulled the name of Lucille, the Thayne family would be the greatest beneficiaries in the new relationship.
Our first visit was an impromptu drop in one early afternoon by just Roxanne and me. The nursing home was beautiful with a large gathering room where a dozen lazy boy recliners made a large circle. Some of the chairs were draped with afghan quilts. After locating a staff member, and asking if we could visit Lucille, she was ushered in to the room arm in arm with the staff.
It didn’t take long to find out that Lucille couldn’t remember much about her life, as well as the fact that she was one of the sweetest women we had ever met. As we were finishing up our visit that day she grabbed both of our hands, pulled us close and said, “I just love you two, do you get it? Do you get it?” We got it. After assuring her we would remind her of who we were at our next visit, we floated out the front door feeling the love that she had shared with us.
The next visit our two youngest children accompanied their friends to sing to the residents. They too came out beaming and anxious to share their stories about Lucille with their siblings. Finally, all of our children were able to visit. Not only did Lucille stroke their arms, pull them in close for hugs, laugh, tease, and play her harmonica, she also set some expectations for them.
She started out with saying “Well, aren’t you just good lookin’? And this one here is as well.” But then she went on to encourage and state her expectations. She said “You are a good boy, I can see that. You will do the right things, wont you? I know you will. You’re just a good boy, I can tell you that for sure.”
Embedded deep within her is the instinct to mother, to nurture, to encourage, and to state her expectations of us. She had done it for all of her adult life, and it’s what came naturally to her now.
I’ve witnessed it over and over again, that people will rise to the level of their belief of your belief in them. If we are going to set expectations with our children, it must be done in a positive way. It shouldn’t always be done in a formal sit-down situation where you are addressing problem areas at the same time. It is most effectively done when there is a feeling of love present, when their hearts and ears are open wide. “You’re a great kid and you’re going to be a great husband and father someday. You are someone I know I can trust to handle such and such.”
What kind of parents would we be if we didn’t have genuine beliefs and expectations of our children? It would be chaos. Very few of us would have become who we are today without people in our lives having great expectations for us.
As you read this issue of Notes From Home, I believe you will find some great insight and challenges to your ideas around expectations. As always, we’d love to hear what you think, so feel free to write us back with your comments or personal experiences.
To Family Happiness!
Tim Thayne, Ph.D.