I remember being very young, maybe five or six, and not being able to sleep one night. I wasn’t stressed or anything, I was super excited.
It was summer, and earlier that day my parents told my sisters and I we were going to the County Fair. Not that day, but in two weeks.
We didn’t get to do much back then because we had very little money, but my parents would often take us on long rides, and once in a while we’d get to go to the drive-in or out for ice cream. What a treat that was!
But the Fair…that was a huge big deal. It’s no wonder I couldn’t sleep that first night, or many of the subsequent ones. I tried counting sheep but that never worked for me. Instead, I’d count down the days until I could go to the Fair.
On the morning of THE day I learned I wasn’t going to the Fair after all. My parents said we couldn’t afford it. I was devastated.
“But you promised!” I cried. “You promised!”
“Well, that’s life,” said my parents, feigning indifference.
I knew they felt bad though, because they took us somewhere else instead, a less expensive amusement park. But I couldn’t get over the fact that they didn’t do what they said they were going to do. I swore when I became a parent I would keep my promises. I didn’t want my kids to feel as betrayed as I had.
But I learned very quickly that you can’t always keep your promises. What you can do though is not make a promise you can’t keep.
I think it’s important to make promises. Making a promise and keeping it builds trust and proves you have integrity. I like the idea of being a “stand-up girl” and admire other people for that same quality. So, if I make a promise to my kids I don’t care if I’m exhausted, sick or “don’t feel like it”, I do what I said I would do.
But not making a promise you can’t keep is a very admirable trait as well. If you’re not sure you can commit to something there’s nothing wrong with saying; “I’m not sure, let me think about that” or “I’ll let you know on Monday or Tuesday when I have a better idea.” Not only is this okay, it’s a kind thing to do to yourself and others.
I know how kids are though, trust me. They’ll whine, nag and pester you until they get their way. But if you’ve taught them often enough that you keep your word, they’ll respect your word, whether it’s what they want to hear or not. Your word then becomes your promise. It becomes a sacred contract between you and your children, with the agreement being, “You can trust me.”
Do you keep your word? It’s never too late to start.
Denise Barry is the award winning author of the children’s picture books “What Does the Tooth Fairy Do with Our Teeth?” and “Soap On A Rope.” Her middle grade book; “Sweeney Mack and the Slurp and Burp Competition” is in the works, so watch for that! Denise is also an inspirational writer whose work has been featured on various websites and in the best-selling book Watch Her Thrive: Stories of Hope, Courage and Strength. She lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband and kids. Please visit her website by clicking here.