For some reason I have a house full of children this weekend. Our three daughters, along with 4 of their cousins (2 of my brother’s daughters, and 2 of my sister’s kids). I promised my daughters kids that they could come down for at least 1 weekend this summer, and my brother’s daughters have been with us all summer participating in camps and internships. Since the summer (at least for us) ends next week, I was running of out of time to make good on my last promise so I made the quick hike up to SC yesterday morning to pick them up and bring them back for what I hope will be a weekend of memorable fun.
Why, with t-minus 8 days left until the start of school, with all that’s going on our lives would I go through all this trouble to keep a promise that could easily be excused away? It’s pretty simple actually: I want to maintain my credibility in their lives. Just like I do with my own daughters, if I commit to something, I follow through. Now, this does mean that I make fewer commitments than the usual parent. My kids can attest, more frequently than not they’ll hear the phrases we’ll see, I’m not sure, let me think about that, I can’t commit to doing that right now, or some version of these non-committal types of responses almost on a daily basis. Sometimes I just flat out say no, it’s not gonna happen and explain the other competing priorities.
It’s also why I try not to tell them anything firm about scheduling or fun activities until I’m pretty confident that I can make it happen (hence why we didn’t mention six flags before last night). It keeps me out of trouble, and allows us grace that we know kids don’t often give you (especially as they get older). Plus, as a former kid myself, i know how it feels to be let down by an adult. It sucks. No kid wants to believe something is going to happen, and then consistently be let down by legitimate or illegitimate excuses. They start to lose faith in not only the adult breaking the promises, but I believe, develop a pessimism about how the world works in general.
I see it in some of my nieces and nephews who constantly act surprised when I follow through with an expectation. It’s as if they’ve been conditioned to be let down, and that’s not how we want the next generation of leaders to be set up. I keep my promises to my kids, because one day, I want them to believe in the power of first keeping their own promises to themselves, and then others. I want them to know that their word is so closely tied to how they view their autonomy in this world, and I want them to have a high degree of personal responsibility. Most importantly, I want them to understand that while I’m not perfect, I am reliable and can be trusted. These are the things that form the basis for a life long relationship.