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Chapter One: Family

“Because your love is better than life” – Psalms 63:3

Many different people in our lives are affected by our choices, decisions, and of course, our expectations but those that are most affected or at the very least, affected the most early in our lives, are those that are closest to us, and live under the same roof as us. Ties and bonds which are unlikely to be broken, even over the longest period of time, until the day of reckoning; which is why our families are the top in the list of those we affect with our expectations.

Since we grow up as a family, born into a certain set of rules and culture, as we grow up, we begin to form expectations towards them unconsciously. This comes from the fact that we spend most of our time around them, and have more trust in them and also slightly because we tend to take family members for granted.

It is first important to understand what causes us to have expectations and what kinds of expectations are considered to be bad expectations and/or unreasonable expectations. Firstly, expectations are formed as a test of trust and skill, and also finding the accomplishment of a mission. In simpler terms, it just means that the expecting party requires the other party to do something for them. Otherwise, it in some contemporary context, it can also mean that the person who is expecting is unconsciously doing so due to force of habit. For example, a child will expect the parent to care for them, even without needing it to be said.

However, there comes a point when the expectations become unreasonable or even harmful to the receiving party. Unreasonable expectations, as characterized by their name, refer to expectations that exceed the ability of the other party yet are still enforced or placed upon the receiving party. Such expectations can vary, and examples are: always expecting an agreement from a family member towards a certain opinion, pressing for better results even though children have already done their best (for parents). All these things might seem minor; however they have an adverse effect, if not at present, then in the future.

An additional note would be that oftentimes, parents expect their children to understand their demands while the same can be said in the opposite. Either way is non-beneficial as one party would assume that the other understands the expectations and will follow suit. Also, if either party does not want to understand the other yet wants the other to understand them, then a compromise will never be reached and conflict will arise. Here’s a story to clarify:

Michael was a talented and bright young boy. That was what all his teachers said. He was optimistic at most times and made lots of friends. His grades might not have been top notch, but that never got him down. Which was why everyone was so surprised when the news came out. At first, people couldn’t actually believe it was him. Maybe it was someone with the same name. There was certainly a chance. Then his picture came up and all hope sank to the bottom.

He was the talk of the school for days after that, especially among his friends. Perhaps if he was still alive, he would shy away from the spotlight. Then again, it was because he wasn’t that he was in it in the first place. No one really knew the cause of his death. Well, everyone knew he jumped, but no one knew why. No one besides his best friend; and probably his parents, but then again, if they had known, none of this would be happening in the first place.

In secret, the always cheerful and smiling Michael was just a façade that he hid under. The only person who really knew him well was his childhood friend, Samuel. And Sam saw the true Michael; depressed, living in fear, always wanting to end it sooner so that he no longer needed to suffer.

You see, the problem was that Michael’s parents were very conscious about grades. Michael’s parents always did well back in their days at school and so that had carried down as an expectation to their own child. Their idea was that since both of them did so well, their child should as well. Unfortunately, Michael’s gifts were not in studies. His piano skills and athletics were much better. His parents didn’t really appreciate those though. And his average-mediocre results never satisfied them, even after he tried his best.

Sam knew. Michael had always come running to Sam when he was down about something, and over the years, Samuel learnt to just shut-up and listen, because advice didn’t really work. Michael didn’t hate his parents, but he didn’t love their “affection” either. And you see, Michael was a bit of an avoider-type. He didn’t have the guts to stand up for himself. Everything was just bottled up inside, waiting to explode.

Their family relationship obviously wasn’t that good either. No arguments, but Michael was never close to his parents. They knew practically nothing about him. In fact, his teachers were probably better at parenting then his real parents were. Sure, they fed him and gave him a place to stay, but that was all. No talks about how his life was, no time to understand him, just piling expectation after expectation for him to do well. And doing well was the only way that he could ‘earn’ their love.

Michael had just about given up everything that he could do for his school work. He had a bright future as a pianist; his mentor always said that he had great potential. Then he quit and that was that. As for athletics, he was offered to train in the nationals, but his parents refused because they thought it would take too much time out of his studying period. Heck, he couldn’t even hang out with friends because of the schedule they gave him. It was study, eat, study, study, sleep, wake up, school, come home, study… and etc. His social life, physical and mental health all dwindled. Soon enough, he was like a walking zombie.

Still, Michael tried his best. At every single subject, he worked his butt off. His teachers knew. All of them tried to tell his parents that he was the hardest worker in their class. That wasn’t enough. He had to get good grades. And that was final. So when he came back with his exam results, his heart sank in fear. He initially wondered whether or not he should even go back. God knows what his parents would do to him.

On his result slips were the mark of his efforts, probably the best he had ever gotten, but they were all Bs. He had narrowly missed a C here and there, but no ‘A’s. Michael didn’t even want to go home to find out what would happen, and so, without telling anyone, he climbed up to the rooftop of the school building and scaled the metal wiring. Soon enough, he was standing on the ledge, looking downwards. The air surrounded him and his hands were clutched against the metal.

Sam on the other hand, arrived just in time to see Michael struggling with his decision. He had noticed something odd with Mike and decided to follow him. Good idea. Though, it was too late. Sam couldn’t even get one step from the staircase door before he watched his friend plummet from the fifth floor to the ground. Sam tried to run and reach for him, but alas, he could only see Michael’s dead body lying there.

He was the first one to call the ambulance, the police and just about every responsible adult in the school. All the other students were either frightened by the sudden presence of a dead body or taking photos of it. Sam was so angry at himself, Michael and the rest of them that he almost punched one of them in the face. The teachers had to restrain him from doing so, but banned all phones and cameras.

And as the police arrived to announce the death time and to escort away the students, Sam glanced back at his friend’s dead body one more time. His parents were there, tears in their eyes. Not that it was any use any more. Turning back, Sam walked away. And that was that.

Questions to ponder:

When we expect something, do we take into account the ability of the other party?

What are some examples of unreasonable expectations that you can think of?

Do our expectations affect the ones around us?

Are our expectations reasonable or unreasonable? (Think more on this and perhaps ask for advice)

Do we expect to get a ‘yes’ every time we ask our family member for something?

Do you ever feel that you need to earn your family member’s love or vice versa?
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