Jennifer Courtney Jennifer Courtney

Premeditated Resentments

2017-12-28 21:25:28

Gratitude; tis the season for it. Some have it, some want it, others seek it, and some even fake it, but what is it really? I like to believe I have it, but if I’m being truly honest, I have to admit I often fall short and have on occasion even faked it. I believe one of my biggest setbacks to feeling truly grateful a lot of the time is expectations. I had it once said to me that expectations are nothing more than premeditated resentments, and in my experience I am inclined to agree. So often others can’t meet our expectations for many reasons, and when this happens we can feel let down, and if it happens often enough we tend to build up resentments, all based off OUR expectations. To feel truly grateful means to release your ideas for that situation and find joy and contentment in what is, not what you wish it was.
I have spoken often over the years about the lessons I have learned from my now 17 year old, and this Christmas was no exception.
We do a small Christmas in my home, for several reasons. First, we simply can’t afford thousands of dollars for gifts, and with four kids it can easily get up there. Second, one year we did buy hordes of gifts, and that turned out to be the worst year ever! The kids were wild, ungrateful, rude and demanding, and after that I said “never again!” Third, times have changed, and my kids don’t really need or want for much. If they need pants, they get pants (the beauty of owning a clothing store). Back in my day if we needed pants, a back pack - heck even deodorant - we waited until Christmas or a Birthday. I did my best to make the toiletries from my stocking last as long as humanly possible because I knew we couldn’t afford to get more unless it was for an occasion. We do 2 “main” gifts in my home, a stocking, and for the young ones pjs and a book (my teens don’t care about new Christmas jammies anymore).
That’s it.
This year as my 17 year old opened his gifts I could see that I did not nail it. He sweetly smiled and thanked me, but his eyes didn’t twinkle. It was a winter coat and new boots, both stylish (to his Mom haha!) and practical. He has not had a brand new coat in years and graciously wears second hand coats, and has never complained. Nevertheless, it appeared that my idea of stylish and his weren’t simpatico this year. I felt like a terrible mom because my son didn’t have a single gift that he was excited about, and I felt like a failure.
We talked about what he liked and didn’t like and I assured him that it was fine and I had the receipts and could exchange them for ones he did feel good in, and this is where the lesson for me began. He just smiled and thanked me and assured me he loved the gesture and thought they were great gifts. He told me not to beat myself up over it because we were all together and “wasn’t that what Christmas was all about anyways?”
That was the moment when I realized that I had put expectations on me - and him - and that was why I was feeling so disappointed. I put so much pressure on myself to make them all happy that I had unknowingly put expectations on how they all would react when they open their gifts.
He had no expectations. He truly saw that I had put time and effort into the gifts and appreciated the gesture. He got pleasure out of watching his siblings open their gifts, and then went about his day as if he got exactly what he had wanted. By him releasing his expectations, he was open to just accepting what was.
A wonderful (and slightly embarrassing) moment when you realize that your teen has a deeper sense of gratitude than you do.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions per se, but I do believe in setting goals, and this year I will do my best to let go of expectations and focus on genuine gratitude for the moments and people in my life. I will not focus on the people who didn’t call or text, but be extra grateful for the ones who did. I won’t focus on the parts of the situation that didn’t work out, but smile at the parts that did. This year I will live in a truly grateful space and remind myself that expectations are resentments just waiting to happen.