By now, your student has returned for the Winter Holiday break. My sense is that you’ve already experienced your expectations not meeting reality. By that I mean, you and your student had expectations for what the return home would look like, or be like and things just haven’t played out quite like you wanted/hoped they would.
You haven’t witnessed the daily transformation of the wide-eyed freshman you dropped off in August; this new creature who now resides in the body of the person you thought was your child. On the other hand, your student has not experienced the daily alterations made to life at home, sometimes beyond your own awareness, around his absence. This is not the household he left in August.
Each of you have made adjustments to how you live out your dailyness – typically in small incremental ways – until you arrive at a new awareness that it’s not like it used to be. How might each of you react to what may feel like an “intrusion” to this new way each of you are now “doing life?” How is she bringing her new sense of independence and competence to the table – figuratively and literally? How are your expectations being met or disappointed?
A former colleague of mine related a story from his Christmas holiday travels several years ago that I find brings a lot to bear on this discussion. He was traveling to a town some distance from his home to deliver an Advent message to a small congregation. He stopped at a Waffle House for a cup of coffee and to review his notes prior to arriving at the rural mountain parish. He noticed after what seemed a long delay that the waitresses hadn’t come to his table but were huddled together looking at him and talking with each other. Finally one of the waitresses came to his table with a noticeable reluctance. She then said, with some measure of confidence he hadn’t anticipated, and in a strong accent indicative of the region, “We know who you is…You one of them Expectors!” And my colleague realized, after deciphering what he believed she meant, that ultimately she was right – he was an “expector”; as we all are – especially this time of year.
We’re expectant people; made that way, I believe, to live in and toward hope, maybe even a sense of anger (good, righteous anger) for things to be different or better. How might you be aware of the ways in which your expectations are playing out regarding the homecoming of your student? Are you aware of your expectations? If you’re not able to bring your expectations to mind fairly quickly, my sense is that you’re probably acting out of them without knowing that’s what you’re doing, which often leads to conflict.
If you haven’t had some semblance of a conversation with your student about this, I would encourage you to sit down for a few minutes and examine what your expectations were/are around your student coming home. Ask yourself, “What did I think it was going to be like?” “What did/do I want to happen?” “How might I be pushing my expectations (read, “my agenda”) in ways that are/might be problematic?” Then, armed with this awareness, ask your student what s/he was expecting it to be like when s/he came home. Talk about the difference – it will be different. Talk about how you may have realized what you were doing/saying that is tied to expectations you’re only now becoming aware of. Heck, ask for forgiveness if you need to. My experience is that it will serve as one of the great gifts to your student and to your relationship.
Blessings to you in this time of expectation & hope!