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  • Misty Spinelli

How Do I Keep My Cool?

How do I keep my cool? By lowering my expectations. Now I'm not normally for setting low expectations for myself or others. I have a MFA, was a college professor by the age of 25, I get dressed like I'm going to an office everyday (even though I'm just walking down the hall to help with math and spelling and read some literature to my kids). BUT.... having high expectations for everything kept stealing my peace.

You know what I'm talking about - the pile on the bar that your husband will not take care of drives you crazy, and when your child cannot remember the science term you worked on all week (and did "fun" activities with on top of that) makes you want to pop. I read somewhere a long time ago that you will have less stress if you lower your expectations. I was sceptical. It didn't fit with my personality or my parenting style, but I tried it a few times. I told the kids to do something, assumed they wouldn't do it right, and was pleasantly surprised at how close they came. The main word being pleasant. If I had expected them to get it right I would have been aggravated and my joy would have been stolen. So I tried again. I decided to assume that my daughter would have a hard time getting through a story we were reading and that I would have to help her a lot. (She is dyslexic so my brain knew this everyday, but the optimist in me always set me up for disappointment. "I just know she will get it today," was always my thought.) However, when I sat my expectations lower, it helped me to be prepared to be patient and then I would have the added joy of being very happy when a hard word came out easy.

I've tried moving my lowered expectations to other areas as well, like that pile on my bar. My marriage isn't worth it. I realized that I had finally lowered my expectations of having a junkless bar as I stood talking to a mom by my bar last night as she was picking up a daughter from a party. There sat my husband's pile. It didn't even bother me. I mentioned it to my friend. She glanced at it, smiled, and said, "Oh, you mean you live in this house. Who cares." And she went right back to her conversation. I realized in that moment that if I had been worried or upset by the pile (which had been there through the whole party.) I would have missed all the joy of the party itself. Oh and by the way, I left two girls, age 10 and 13 to clean the house for the party while I had to attend a couple of meetings with teens. I set my expectations at, "I hope the clothes are out of her bedroom floor and the living room is picked up." I came home to: pizza makings artistically placed on the table of a clean kitchen, and craft supplies neatly arranged in a clean school room. I was estatic!!! So I didn't go look in her room to see about the clothes.

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