Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Every year, like most families, we have a holiday tradition to decorate the Christmas tree. Now this is a BIG DEAL for me because I was raised Jewish. Having a tree that I could cherish with the glittering lights and sentimental ornaments meant the world to me.
Each year seemed to bring different adult kids and their families depending on their schedule. This year was the family with the two beautiful little granddaughters. In the past, most of the adults would initially start and then move on to the kitchen or a funny conversation happening elsewhere in the house. It was usually left to me to finish the job; but I didn't mind because I felt like a little kid myself in awe while doing it.
However, that was not to be the case this year. Initially I thought, "little ones, little effort, little expectation. I could not have been more wrong. Both of the girls took their "ELF" job very seriously. I would hand them a cherished glass ornament and they immediately knew how precious and dear it was. I explained how each ornament had a history, and told them the stories behind the most endearing ones. The girls placed these beautiful delicate objects on the tree as if they were sacred. They took their job very seriously and were very happy to help.
For two hours they blissfully worked by my side and listening intently to my instructions. Not once did I have to say, "Where did they go?" or eyeroll thinking, oh well...another one bites the dust. They thrived on being helpful and needed. Isn't that what everyone wants? To feel important and that they matter?
To be honest, I had my expectations in the beginning and they were limited. I was very surprised how capable and accomplished they were; determined to contribute their elf-work by creating a beautiful tree.
This reminded me how important it is to check in with your kids to see if you are both on the same page with similar expectations. In the past, I would ask my son, "Are my expectations too high, too low, or just right?" He would tell me exactly how he felt because feeling important and capable mattered to him. Sometimes I would think to myself, "Am I dreamer, am I wishing too hard?" I always came back to HOPE. I'm okay with pushing him out of his comfort zone if I believe he can do it. As long as he believed it, then it was worth the try. For how would he ever know that he can do whatever it is he wants to do, unless I let him try, and perhaps even fail. For as Mary Pickford once said, "You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down."
So my advice to you is to expect more. You may just be wonderfully surprised!
Debra Taubenslag, Author
No Stone Unturned: How My Special Needs Child and I Transformed Against All Odds