"Don't expect much" are words often heard by parents of newly diagnosed, differently abled children. I heard it in this video, (see below) about a girl diagnosed with Autism, who blossomed in her own, unique way. I wept when I heard it in her story, because I have heard it too.
It can be heartbreaking to hear at first. In my case, I didn't even realize that I had been dreaming for my child, that I had expectations for her in my mind -- perhaps before she was even conceived. Even in naming a child, parents begin to dream. "What will they call her when she is the CEO of a company?" Or, "Will this name suit her when she publishes her first novel?" But then, when your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy (as was mine), or any other of the myriad of possibilities: ADHD, Down's Syndrome, Autism, the list goes on and on and is very long, those dreams you perhaps didn't even realize you had are shattered.
But in that shattering, a light can shine in that wasn't there before. In that shattering, there can be the removal of expectations. At first disappointing or even depressing, "Don't expect much" can be a door that opens, welcoming you into a new realm of parenting that is wonderful: the release of expectations.
What happens when you stop dreaming for your child? You allow them to dream for themselves. What happens when you have no expectations for your child? You are no longer disappointed when they don't live up to your preconceived notion of who or how they "should" be, and they are free to be themselves. Every new development, no matter how small, is astonishing, a revelation, and uniquely their own.
As the parent of a differently abled child, this release of expectation has changed the way I parent, and it has released me from the shackles of expectation -- shackles I didn't even know I had. Every day is a new day, every day is a surprise. Ask yourself, "Can I allow my child to be other than the way I think she should be? Can I accept my child as she is?"
Whether your child is differently abled, normal, or gifted beyond reason, these questions can free you from the suffering tied to expectations, and give your child a chance to be themselves from the very start.
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