Promises Promises

© Dushenina | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Dushenina | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

“But mom, you promised we could!”

We could … fill in the blank. Make cookies, play tennis after school, do watercolor salt collages, go to the bank and make a deposit in that cool pneumatic tube. You name it–whatever the thing was that I had woefully neglected to do is beside the point. The point is that once again I had fallen sadly short of the perfect mother benchmark. And once again my son was shaming me with my shortcomings.

If there’s a parent out there who has never disappointed their child, please stay far away from me. I feel guilty enough already. I certainly don’t need you flaunting your perfection in my face.

I know I should have learned the perils of promises a long time ago. Isn’t it always better to under-promise and over-deliver? I seem to recall being tested on that a few times in my life. Plus it’s so logical: don’t promise more than you can deliver and you won’t disappoint anyone, right?

But the problem with kids is they interpret every word you say as a promise. Except of course when they don’t.

What seems like merely a rather vague plan to my muddled mind is often a promise in the eyes of my son. The moment words like “yes, we should do that” leave my mouth, my 8-year-old interprets them as a sworn-in-blood pledge–sometimes. And that’s the kicker. He forgets what we had planned to do just as often as I do, but when I forget I’m a terrible parent and when he forgets, well, he’s just being a kid.

Really, I never intended to be crushing the hopes and dreams of my sweet little guy. Of course I know that kids believe us when we promise them something. It’s just that, well, I didn’t know you were serious about that. Or I thought you changed your mind after school. Or I completely forgot about it. Or, once in a great while–something better came up.

Surely you realize that I didn’t realize how important it was to you. Surely you must know that I never meant to break your sweet, innocent little heart. I’m so very sorry.

Before I was a mom I spent a lot of time apologizing to the plants. It’s not that I was negligent per se; it’s just that there was so much going on in my life. Sometimes I would completely forget to water a plant for, say, the winter, and then, to make up for it, spray the others with a fire hose for the month of March.

I’ve gotten much better about this. Really I have. I never even buy plants anymore and if someone gives me one, I know better than to get too attached.

Seriously, I’ve only forgotten to feed Koss a few times. Eventually he reminds me, usually by screaming “I’m starving, mom. You forgot to make me breakfast again!” in the middle of a crowded room of appalled parents and teachers. I’m embarrassed about this, of course, but it’s not like the plants. As soon as he starts to smell, I drop everything and hose him off. I would never just toss him in the trash.

See, I promised when he was born that I would always love and cherish him, and that’s one promise I’m sure I can keep.

If you email Leslie at email she promises to write back. For more columns visit
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on March 28, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.