Setting Realistic Expectations and Cultivating Compassion

. February 2, 2016.

Fans of the HBO series “Game of Thrones” are familiar with Daenerys Targaryen, one of the few remaining rulers in the mythical land of kings and kingdoms.

More famous than her claim to the throne, however, is her other title: Mother of Dragons. Through a series of events she raises and nurtures three dragons, who are every bit as fierce and competitive as you’d expect, literally setting on fire what stands in their way.

It’s an interesting story of compete and conquer, but one that some parents seem to take too literally. I recently saw a bumper sticker that read “Mother of Dragons,” with two stick figures representing children. Who can forget the “Tiger Mom” phenomenon that valued accomplishment above all? And we all are familiar with that parent – whether in school or on the playing field – who thinks their kid is the best kid ever born.

I’m not one of those parents. Don’t get me wrong – I love my children and think they are great. Are they the best at what they do? Not by a long shot. I encourage my kids to be their best, but I know they are not the best. They know it, too. There will always be someone who can jump higher or run faster. There will always be someone who scores a 100 to their 99. They are only in competition with themselves, and they set their own bar. The pressure is off to be perfect, and they can get past competition and find their passions. There is always someone better. Always. Learning that life lesson in a small community and carrying it out into the real world, is preferable to living in a bubble of ersatz brilliance that is popped as soon as the child leaves home.

I will be happy if they do well in school, are kind to others and end up happy adults who in turn raise great kids. I expect them to be kind, thoughtful human beings who value compassion over competition.  I want them to stop and help someone who has fallen, not step over them. Heaven knows the world needs more people like that. I hope that through gentle encouragement and realistic expectations, they try to be the best people they can be. And they might just set the world on fire through being themselves, not fearsome dragons or vicious tigers.

There will, however, always be parents who feel their children are dragons. They may want to recall Daenerys’ struggle with her own dragon children. As her dragons have grown, they have rebelled. They are no longer content to sit by her side as she rules her kingdom. They have minds of their own. She can no longer control what she has created. She is still the Mother of Dragons, but now it is her dragons who rule the roost.