Unfulfilled expectations and regrets.
Everyone I know has unfulfilled or unrealized expectations. Mine may be the same as theirs but most likely not.
Everyone grows up in a different kind of home than everyone else and even those who grow up in the same home are different ages or genders and have different experiences.
I grew up with a mom and dad who tried to make our home a normal, typical 1960’s home. We watched “Leave it to Beaver”, “I love Lucy”, “Jackie Gleason” and “The Brady Bunch”. We ate TV dinners in front of the TV on TV trays. Dad went to work while mom stayed home. Well, until we couldn’t afford the home we were in and mom needed to go to work. Then we went to the baby sitter “Grandma Madison”. She was no relation of ours and abused us to control us 6 hours a day while mom was at work.
We moved several times from apartments to houses looking for a home. In 1965 our parents bought a house and mom kept working while we were in school. Elementary schools changed zones for some reason so I changed schools. Junior high and high school remained the same throughout for me but my sisters rebellious ways landed her in a school in the desert run by nuns. Dad stooped coming home for weeks at a time and while I was in Boot camp for the US Marine Corps our parents divorced.
Are all families dysfunctional? Is there any family anywhere who does it right and raises their children in an atmosphere of love, encouragement and acceptance? Having tried to raise a family like this (several times) and failed (again several times) I know how hard it is in today’s world. It does not matter how I wanted to be raised because I had few choices and only the power over my own actions or reactions. I wanted my problems in life to be like those on the TV shows. Every one of them was solved in 30 minutes! In reality mine took weeks or years (if they were ever solved). In reality my parents made choices for themselves which affected the entire family for years.
Even when I tried to raise a family the way I wanted to be raised I ran into troubles. My desire was to take the best of both my parents and avoid the mistakes they made. Unfortunately (for myself and my kids) choosing the best person to be my spouse has a lot to do with all future choices and I failed to choose wisely (more than once!) I had a dream! I had a path I desired to travel down and a goal in mind. My wives had other ideas, plans and goals. Some of their ideas and plans did not include me.
Everything seemed to be going great for the first year of so of each marriage. I did my best to love my wife and the kids and treat them as I desired to be treated when I was a kid. I was not permissive so much (being a Marine gave me a lot of lessons in discipline and a desire to see order in the home around me). Perhaps this was another factor in my unrealized expectations (kids do not naturally seek to organize their rooms, closets and personal possessions). No matter how many times I lectured and demonstrated, stuff never went where it belonged or stayed there long. Chaos is the natural order of children’s lives.
And then my wives had their ideas of how to raise “Their” kids. They wanted to dress them up and send them off and forget them until they came home from school. They did not want to take the time to teach them the things they will need to know for life like responsibility, cleanliness, cooking and other household skills. They just wanted to have fun with them, play games and watch reruns on TV. School was hard enough the first time around and something daddies should help with (thus forcing me to be the “Bad Guy” when it came to getting homework and household chores done). Frustrating? Yes, yes it was and I saw no practical, helpful way to change it and get mom involved without a fight. *Sighs*
And that brings me to my final segment, marriage. I love Lucy was a beautiful, talented and resourceful woman on the show (and in real life I understand). Looking for a woman like that was one of my unrealistic expectations it turned out. Shirley Jones from the Partridge family and Florence Henderson from the Brady Bunch were also wonderful yet unrealistic role models. I never found a woman who wanted to be like them (a couple desired more to emulate Peg Bundy from Married with children). Raising a family was originally created as a two parent job. No one person can cover all the bases all the time. Something important that is being juggled is going to fall.
And now it is too late to change anything for the better in my kid’s lives. They are all grown adults and have kids of their own. Most love me, one hates me and one is indifferent. They all think I failed them and the family in some way, that there was something I could have done differently to make a change. Perhaps there is some truth to that thought. Most forgive me and one does not. My oldest daughter passed away a few years ago and left behind 3 sons. I get to see them once every couple years and they love me as I love them. She was the one I loved the most and was the closest to. I miss her so very much.
So it turns out that no one is perfect. There is no perfect life for anyone from child to adult or onwards. The best we can do is to love our family members unconditionally. Be quick to listen, slow to anger and slow to speak. Treat others as we desire to be treated and keep our hope for a better future strong. Every day we can decide to make better choices for ourselves and our families. We can choose to love others whether or not that love is ever returned. We can seek peace and experience grace in our lives every day and share these with those around us who will let us into their lives.