Disappointment In Our Children




If either, or both, of my children were gay, it would not affect my love for them one iota. Quite frankly, I’d rejoice. Because for me homosexuality is not an issue. I would worry about the homophobia that seems to be inescapable and I would worry about the challenges that they would face navigating their lives in a world, where even in our back yard, the West Village, in New York City, the unofficial gay mecca, violence against gays is on the rise.


But it would not affect how I felt about my children. Not one bit.


But there are other issues, less political and perhaps emotional that give me pause.


I have no doubt that I would love my children no matter what. But there are choices that they can make that would make me disappointed in them and would be difficult for me to accept.


And I don’t mean the big stuff– like if they murdered someone or voted Republican.


I mean the less significant ones, of not participating in sports, in finding no joy in curling up with a book, of not living up to their potential. Things that are important to me and I want to be important to them.


So I’m breaking with the mommy party line of “as long as they’re happy!” and coming out.


If my kids slack off, it affects how I feel about them.


Because I cannot watch one of my kids excel in basketball, season after season only to decide to quit the team because it‘s “too hard”. I can’t stand by with the “I’ll love you no matter what” embrace while my other kid tells me that getting five wrong on a quiz “is good enough” because others in the class got even more answers wrong, so comparatively speaking, it’s not that bad.


It’s not okay, and it’s not acceptable. And it has absolutely nothing to do with not loving them enough.


And I have a feeling that there are more parents out there like me.


Why aren’t we speaking out?


Are we afraid that our love for our children will be questioned?


Or are we worried that confessing any kind of disappointment in our children is the greatest mommy sin of all?


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  1. 1

    Alexandra says

    I often feel the same way, as if I”m the only one that tells my children that there is a joy in pushing through and accomplishing something you thought you couldn’t.

    “As long as they’re happy?” not in this house, because you don’t know what happy is until you see it from the other side.

    As I ask them often, “is it bad or is it hard? Because those are two different things.”

    Here;s the the parents who are teaching their children to do more than they think they can.

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  2. 4

    Nicole says

    My parents raised me that way…although my brother fought back, wanted to be “average” – up until about now I did want them just to be happy (my kids are 6 & 8), but I think in some ways it was easy for me to say that, since they did excel at so many things. I hear about the over-competitiveness and the pushing around here (Bay Area), which leads to stress and cheating and sometimes suicide and it makes me sick.

    I completely get where you are coming from and I’m not exactly sure how I’d react if my little soccer stars decided to quit, for example. My goal for them is to find a passion…I think my parents tried to tell me that was important, but what they showed by their actions was to get a practical degree that you liked well enough so you could earn enough money. So now I have no idea what I want to do “when I grow up” and I don’t have what it takes to quit my job to find out.

    I’d rather my kids tried new things, took all sorts of risks and failed a lot, and eventually find something they really want to put their heart into. I honestly think that will make them happier adults and the rest will follow.

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    • 5

      Marinka says

      Yes, I agree with you about letting the children find their passion, but I sometimes worry that they equate passion with “easy come!” Like my son really wants to be a professional baseball player. Which is great, and I support his passion for baseball, but it can’t end there. There have to be other things that he works at, and it doesn’t have to diminish his love of the game.

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  3. 6

    Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) says

    I agree. I always love my kids but I don’t necessarily always LIKE my kids. I expect my kids to do the right thing. I’ve had kids want to quit and made them finish out their commitment. Unconditional love isn’t always supporting their decisions. Having said that, I’m there to pick up the pieces. Part of growing up is being able to call your mom and recognize that the statement “I made bad life decisions last night mom” doesn’t mean I will love her less but, in fact, I’m proud that she’s learned to recognize that growing up is all about the choices you make and how you deal with them.

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    • 7

      Marinka says

      Totally agree with you, about being there to help them when they fall down. That’s a great point. And I think that when kids realize that you’re that kind of parent, they are encouraged to take more risks.

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      • 8

        Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) says

        It’s interesting. I just had a conversation today about how so many “helicopter” parents are making sure that everything is always peachy and successful so that there’s a generation of kids never feeling the sting of failure. Failure is such an important learning tool because how do you learn to pick yourself back up if you never fall down. That’s just my opinion which is, of course, ore important than everyone elses.

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  4. 9

    Joy says

    I have two special needs children. So, accordingly, here’s a twist. I love my children no matter what, I KNOW this to be true as it is tested with my son everyday. Who could inflict injury to my head and get a hug from me just 2 minutes later? So, I know, I’m in it for the long haul with these two. Love aside, I’m embarrassed to be my son’s mother at times, overwhelmed with disappointment at his choices, furious at his lack of remorse, and sad about his lack of understanding of it. I am frustrated that my son, who wears hearing aids, can not hear me sometimes and I have to repeat myself, like, 5 times and guilty about feeling this way because it’s not his fault.

    Here’s a startling revelation. Our children, well at least my children, will not live up to their potential. I’m dispelling this myth right now. They will make very bad choices, sometimes the same bad choices more than once. They will fail. I have not lowered my expectations. I truly expect my children to do the very best that they can do and, I admit, sometimes that’s more than what they want for themselves. These desires for my children to be a certain thing, or to receive a certain grade, or to win a certain award. These are my dreams. I want my child to win, sure, because I know how much harder the journey is when I fail and , unlike my little children, have a lifetime of experiences to fall back on when making my choices.
    OK, so my three year old son is knocking over the other children in his preschool and rubbing their backs under their shirts. He says he’s trying to be nice, and he is, kind of… Anyway, I am disappointed that he is unable to be with typically developing peers at school. I worry that he will never be able to be in a regular classroom setting and won’t have friends, and my mind can wonder to a life of crime and drugs. I comically tell him that I will never bail him out of jail, but he continues to try and break into the neighbors car despite my warnings. I know that the disappointment I feel is my expectations of motherhood and my preconceived notions of raising my children before they were ever conceived. They are who they are and they have their own journey to travel. I’m just along on the ride.

    And to give out hugs and band aids when necessary.

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    • 10

      Marinka says

      This was very powerful to read, thank you for sharing it with me.

      Is it possible that your children will live up to their potential? None of us really knows what a child’s potential is–although I’m fairly certain that my kid will not win any subtlety awards.

      I so agree with you on the hugs and band aids. But the point that I tried to make is that it’s okay to have those other mixed feelings too. Except we never talk about them. Maybe because we’re afraid that other people will question our love for our children? Because if we truly loved them, how could we verbalize anything other than adoration or playful exasperation?

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      • 11

        Joy says

        I enjoyed your article, or I wouldn’t have so passionately responded. You bring good questions to the table. I love my children but I don’t always like them. Sometimes they aren’t very nice people to be around. You’re right. Likewise my mother was cold and emotionally unavailable and emotionally abusive through most of my life. I don’t want to spend any spare time with her but I love her regardless. I guess that’s what family is all about…it’s OK to speak frankly to our children or about our children because we can, our love will never wain. Thanks for posting!

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        • 12

          Lady Jennie says

          Joy, I really appreciated this comment as well. I’m glad I read the comments since I don’t usually read them. I think your honesty is beautiful.

          And Marinka, I never thought about it before, but I think I’m with you. Some things (not living up to their potential) are not okay with me.

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  5. 14

    tarheelmom says

    are you living in my house? i can not stand it when my 7th grade son comes home with a math test and seems content with the fact that he missed fewer problems than most of the class – especially when the ones he missed were simple careless mistakes. this careless mistake crap is making my husband…and me, CRAZY!!! How can a kid completely understand the concept of multi-step algebraic equations but forget to carry the 1 and end up missing the whole problem…AND be OK with this miss?!?!! Two nights ago we had this very conversation…I basically told him, if he doesn’t understand the concept and misses the problem then that’s ok, we can work on that BUT, if it’s a careless mistake with simple math then someone is being lazy or rushing and i can’t help him with that…he has to find that place deep inside that makes him want to double check his work and catch those silly mistakes – i can’t fix that, he has to…and he has to want to. And that is frustrating for me. I love him more than life itself and I’d do anything in the world for him BUT, I can’t tolerate him being lazy and not trying any longer. I feel like I’m constantly making excuses for him and in the end that’s not helping him, it’s enabling him. I don’t want to push him too hard but as parents we have to nudge a little, right? I come from a family that didn’t expect much out of me, you know, being a girl and all I should just get married, why care about going to a good university(which i did by the way-go Tarheels!)…my husband came from the exact opposite-youngest of three boys, all engineers, failure not an option. There has to be some middle ground but finding it has been an awful journey. Sorry to rant but obviously you hit a nerve. I look forward to hearing what others are doing, I’m certain we aren’t the only families dealing with this. (Oh, and voting Republican is an unforgivable sin, everything else is totally workable!)

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    • 15

      Marinka says

      It definitely helps me to hear that other families are struggling with this. And frankly, I don’t quite understand why saying “you can do better” even implies that your parental love is somehow endangered. Of course we love our children. If we loved them less it wouldn’t bother us as much.

      You are definitely not alone.

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  6. 16

    Natalie says

    I think our society has gotten too complacent & thinking things are just “good enough” so it’s fine. It is absolutely NOT acceptable in our house to simple do just enough.
    My middle son is in the gifted program in his school. He asked the other day if I would get him out based on the fact it was hard. I of course told him no & that he would be bored. My husband asked what his grades were, the kid said A’s. Yeah, he’s gonna stay right where he is.

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    • 17

      Marinka says

      On the one hand, I totally don’t blame kids for wanting to take the easy way out. I mean, why struggle?

      Except when it’s my kids. Because that drives me crazy.

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  7. 18

    Truthful Mommy says

    I do think that I would be disappointed if my kids fall short of their potential because of lack of trying. It has a lot to do with my own failure is not an option creedo. I think all things are possible, it just depends on how hard you are willing to work for it. I was raised to work my tail off for everything I got and I did because I wanted it and I KNEW no one was just going to give it to me. I’m also not tolerant of the “Im a victim” persona. I feel like hardships can do one of two things to a person, make you a victim or make you stronger from growth. I expect my children to grow. Don’t think I have impossible standards but I do expect my children to try their hardest and dedicate. I don’t do the whole, Oh you’re tired of trying or bored with the commitment…you can stop. What kind of message does that send>?We teach our kids..this is our responsibility.I want my kids to be happy and fulfilled.Fulfillment comes from living up to potential and achieving goals,dreams and knowing unconditional love.My girls know the rule, we try everything at least twice but if we commit to something, we follow it through.Happy Mothering!

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    • 19

      Marinka says

      That’s a good rule–trying something twice before committing. I also think it’s important for kids to live up to the commitment that they make to themselves, even more so than to their parents, school, etc.

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  8. 20

    nonstick says

    I totally agree with you. Suck it up, I say. The girl doesn’t want to work on her challenge words. “Their too hard.” That’s the definition of “challenge”. Suck it up. It’s ok to not understand. You ask for help. The gold star is for succeeding, not just trying.
    I am 2nd generation Chinese American. I pass my parents’ high expectations onto my children. If they don’t like it, they can blame Po-po and Gung-gung.
    To those parents who think “as long as the kids are happy”, make sure you save a lot for retirement, because you will have to support yourself AND your kids.

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  9. 21

    pgoodness says

    Thank you. Yes. I totally know exactly what you’re talking about!

    My youngest wanted to quit soccer halfway through the season. There was much sobbing and many tantrums. Finally I snapped and told him that if he wanted to be a quitter and let his teammates down that HE would have to tell his coach. With some help from his dad (because I obviously suck at the inspiration thing), he finally got over it and finished the season strong.

    And from the holy high expectations, batman! files – my boys (7 & 5) brought home report cards yesterday – all 1’s (which is like an A) except they each had 3 2’s and I had to stop myself from being annoyed and disappointed! What the hell?? There is nothing wrong with those grades!!

    I think we don’t speak out because of the guilt – how dare we feel differently about what some people would consider the “little things”.

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  10. 22

    Anita says

    For the most part I disagree. My kids are 16 and 17. They are who they are. To take your example, yes, I used to be disappointed when I noticed my son disliked reading. But that is who HE is. I can’t change him. Yes, my daughter is a total wimp in some areas of her life. Yes, I’ve told her to suck it up. But we all have weaknesses. At this point in their lives I see that I have raised really great kids. I know they will make wise choices, but there will be trips and falls along the way. It saddens me to see parents who were so happy when their children were born and satisfied that they were “just” healthy. Suddenly the expectations and disappointments pile as easily as clothing.

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      • 24

        Anita says

        Joy~Your middle paragraph is so true. Our expectations should not be for that societal standard, but for what is good and true for each child. They’re all so wonderfully unique. For one I’m glad my kids do not follow the expectations that were thrown on me as a child. I loved that you said you’re just here for the ride–truer words never spoken.
        I also think the perspective is different from having a special needs child such as yourself or older kids as my friends and I do.
        I can honestly say that if I was a teenager I would like having my kids as friends. No, they’re not perfect, but they leave me in awe every day.

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  11. 25

    Catootes says

    I’m with you. If my kid tells me that his test grade of 86% is the best of the class, I ask him why it wasn’t a 96% and I don’t care why his classmates did crappy.

    If my daughter whines about how hard her math class is I tell her to study harder and spent more time with her teacher.

    Life is hard, kids need to step up and know that there are few allowances in the real world. But I still hug them and tell them I love them after I remind them that they need to suck it up and do better.

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  12. 26

    annie says

    On the eve of parent teacher conferences I thank you because I just know my middle child’s spelling tests are going to send me right over the edge!! She’s 10 – she should know that not every word out there has a silent ‘e’ on the end.

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  13. 27

    Kate Coveny Hood says

    I run into “dissapointment” with my four year old daughter when it comes to her interactions with peers sometimes. She picks favorites and then dismisses others as unworthy of her attention. Or at least that’s my interpretation – she just says, “I don’t like her.” We all say, “oh – girls are just like that.” But you know what? I wasn’t. I have always felt the need to be nice to people – to make them feel comfortable – to not unnecessarily hurt anyone’s feelings. And it’s important to me that my children value kindness as well. So yeah – I feel very disappointed when I see my daughter vocally refuse to hold hands with a partnerless girl in the preschool line because she would rather hold hands with the two other friends she prefers. That kind of insensitivity bordering on cruelty makes me cringe. I really hope that it’s just a little girl thing and she won’t be running the “Mean Girls” clique in high school… I do tell her that this behavior disappoints me and she sometimes cries when she hears that. And I guess I do tell her that I still love her…but I try to be clear that my love for her doesn’t change the fact that her attitude sucks and makes me feel disappointed. Of course then then get distracted by worries about my special needs son ever having real friends and the third child is completely ignored regardless of his personal brand of crazy. So in effect, I’m not really helping anyone. Looking forward to future grown children who talk to therapists about how disappointing *I* was…

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    • 28

      Joy says

      I know what you mean. My son is in Kindergarten and I am disappointed when he doesn’t want to play with a certain kid or says something hurtful to someone. I’m told that some of this is just developmental. I guess it IS really hard to get along with others. Recently his peer told him he was being mean and he came home from school so hurt. When the story came to pass it was my son who threw the first punch and was being mean. We encouraged him to apologize and he did all on his own and they ended up best buddies by recess. I am trying to teach him that just because you argue doesn’t mean you can’t work it out and how to take responsibility for your words and actions. Good luck to you.

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  14. 29

    Ann's Rants says

    It kind of reminds me of marriage. My Husband is not Jewish and we did all this premarital counseling about it. Turns out that is not nearly as big an issue for us most days as other personality/communication style differences.

    As my kids get older, I imagine that I too will struggle with my values/priorities not being theirs…

    Especially their distaste of The Dixie Chicks. Okay, their distaste of my loud version of the Dixie Chicks.

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  15. 30

    Allyson says

    Amen. I love my children endlessly. But sometimes, I don’t like them. And sometimes, I’m disappointed with the people they are. They know I will always love them. They also know that sometimes, I don’t agree with their choices.

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  16. 31

    Brittany at Mommy Words says

    I am with you on this one. My kids can be as gay as they want but that does not mean they can do whateer they want in regards to their studies or their hobbies or their life. If they have dreams they need to work for them. And these days it seems clear they will need to work hard. We want to teach them that its okay to be who you are but no, they are noy by nature mediocre with no ability to excel. I am disappointed when they are mean, when they are rude, when they refuse to listen. I tell them very calmly why working hard is important. I tell them that Mommy is proud, even if they get something wrong, but only when they try their best. Of courseI love them no matter what – but I am parent and that sometimes means tough love. I am their friend and their biggest supporter but also the disciplinarian.

    Great post.

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  17. 32

    Wendi says

    My parents never forced me to continue piano lessons–I wish they had.
    My parents never forced my sister to continue basketball–she wishes they had.
    My husband’s parents never forced him to read for pleasure — he wishes they had because now it’ll probably never become a habit.

    Give your kids the wisdom of your experience and your foresight no matter how much they may not like it.

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  18. 33

    Kayli says

    I just want to say this one thing. Most of our kids who come home with a bad grade or 5 wrong answers are disappointed in themselves & moreso know that we as their parents are going to be upset & disappointed with them & that some disciplinary action is going to happen. So because our kids are smart & know that about us & don’t want to disappoint us, they come up with something to make it sound not so bad. To make us as the parents see that they are the best in their class (despite the other kids grades, high or low), that they did better than the majority of their classmates. They say this cause they think it’ll soften the blow, apparently they don’t realize it only pisses you all off more than if they didn’t say anything & silently, remorsely hand you the paper. They’re just trying to please us & not disappoint us, not because they think it’s good enough, they know it’s not cause that’s how you’ve raised them. So maybe lighten up a little? Pushing kids too hard is very dangerous territory. Make sure you listen to your kids & get to the real reason behind their motives & what they say.
    At least that’s my experience as a a previous kid & now a mother.

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  19. 34

    Traci says

    I knew from the moment I birthed my kids that their choice in sexuality couldn’t concern me any less. I would be so over the moon if my son would bring home a man, because that would mean never competing for his love of another woman.

    And I truly believe nobody can truly grasp that statement like a mom of a son.

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  20. 35

    Jenifer says

    THANK YOU! I will be sending your link to ALL my friends who tell me, “you’re such a dick” LOL! when I’m hard on my kids. I’m the Mom who will put my kids in check in front of anyone, anywhere if need be. I am definitely not that Mom who’s praising their child knowing damn well the kid sucked-ass @ baseball try outs! Now don’t get it twisted, I don’t use those words. I don’t agree with “everybody makes the team” no matter what because out in the real world, You don’t get to be a doctor without going to medical school just because you want to. I personally feel that parents who are not somewhat hard on their kids are just setting them up for major failure as adults. Think about it .. If a child grows up hearing how good they are at sports, etc. when in fact they could use improvement to stay competitive can you imagine the devastation when they learn as an adult they SUCK-ASS!! and always have.

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    • 36

      tarheelmom says

      I’m with you! I blame all of the world’s woe’s on birthday parting gift bags for attendees and everyone getting a trophy on sports teams…and crocs but that’s a different rant! I’m the hardass in my neighborhood…there are kids around here, in middle school, whose parents do their homework and projects for them- just so the kid can get As – i guess actually learning something isn’t as important to them…make sure you save your money b/c if these kids are in charge when we are old, we are in a heap of trouble!

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