Our children have a new bit where they pretend to be halfway finished with a task or project. “We’ve only cleaned part of the playroom,” they say, or “I’ve only worked half of the puzzle.” When we go to inspect their progress, they reveal that in fact, they are finished! They’ve lowered our expectations so that the finished product is even more impressive.
I wonder if they’ve learned that skill over the past two years. Hasn’t the pandemic and its challenges made us all wonder whether it’s wiser to lower expectations? Our kids have become conditioned to hold plans loosely, unsure if any gathering or school day or birthday party is actually going to happen. What’s unclear is how affected they are by the fear that comes with every new variant, quarantine, and at-home test.
When my worrying really goes into overdrive, I wonder how much of their childhood the pandemic has stolen, and as it lags on, how much more it will take. As a parent, I know learning to adapt to changing circumstances is a good thing for my daughters, and something I want to keep learning how to do too. But I also worry they’re becoming accustomed to disappointment.
I was grieving their lowered expectations recently when a Scripture came to mind that my own dad used to encourage me years ago as I was going through a particularly difficult time of teenage doubt. He pointed me to John 10:10: “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” The translation my dad quoted to me said Jesus came that we might have life “to the full.” Not life mired in fear and worry, my dad contended, but life in fullness and abundance, sustained by Jesus.
Remembering that conversation with him, it dawned on me that my issue isn’t so much lowered expectations as it is misplaced ones. It’s still too easy to stake my definition of an abundant life for my children on the “normalcy” of pre-pandemic life. But Jesus’ words are as true today as they were for the first Christians, his offer of abundant life good amid their challenges and ours.
As we enter a third year of uncertainty, I want to shift my expectations not lower but higher, to the unshakable promise of the full life Jesus promised.
Meredith Day Flynn is a wife and mother of two living in Springfield. She writes on the intersection of faith, family, and current culture.