Sprawled out on the floor, legs and arms flailing around, and trying to catch his breath between sobs, he screams.
“But mommy you promised!”
My three-year-old son has the memory of an elephant, which ironically is one of his favorite animals. Perhaps that is why it's his favorite. If I tell him we will go to the park later, or I'll play the 'candy' game on my phone with him, he holds me to it. But like most moms, I make promises I just can't keep.
Working diligently on the computer trying to meet deadlines, he comes with his requests. Trips to the library, asking me to take a break and watch TV with him, eat one of the plastic sandwiches he made me from his kitchen. I try to oblige whenever possible, but often my response is an empty promise to do whatever he requests later.
“Let me finish this email, and then I promise I will play with you.”
“Mommy has to finish this article right now, but I promise we will go to the park tonight.”
I make so many promises in a day, I can't keep track. My intention is to always follow through, but then life happens. As I take a break to play cars with him, a business call comes in. At the park, I respond to an urgent email on my phone while he comes down the slide.
I'm not just breaking promises, I missing out.
It's important to me that I'm present in my children's lives, however execution doesn't always follow intent. I used to be consumed with guilt, however that is no way to live. I remind myself that I'm providing for him with this work I do. Regardless, it's hard not to think that I'm breaking his trust whenever I break a promise.
While I can't always follow through on my promises to visit the library or play on the computer together precisely when he wants, there are promises I can keep.
I promise to learn all the names of the dogs on Paw Patrol so when he talks about them like they're his friends, I know who is who.
I promise to always buy white socks because he 'wants to wear the kind that daddy does.'
I promise I will never post naked or embarrassing pictures of him on social media because I realize someday he will be grown, and those images will haunt him.
I promise next time we're at Disney to give Jake from the Neverland Pirates a hug, forgoing my chance to take a picture of my son, just because he wants to see us embrace so bad.
I promise to make every effort to be there for every soccer game, school performance or any other event that is special to him. If for some reason I can't be there, I promise to have daddy tape it for me and we will watch it together.
I promise to never show up to school in anything embarrassing when dropping him off or picking him up, unless he is really bad in which case that may be his punishment.
I promise I will never make he and his sister wear matching outfits because I don't believe in cruel and unusual punishment.
I promise to always cheer him on in athletics, academia, musical aspirations or whatever activities he wants to pursue.
I promise to always be his advocate, and question authority like teachers, doctors and politicians if I don't think they have his best interest in mind.
I promise that when he starts liking girls (even though that ship has sailed), to not judge them immediately and actually get to know them first before I form any opinion.
I promise I will let him explore his adventurous side, even if it makes me cringe or gives me heart palpitations to watch him zipline, rock climb or do anything else that could potentially hurt him.
I promise that daddy will never marry a mean step-mother my kids don't like because I've already told my husband if he does, I will haunt him (and the other woman) either from heaven or earth.
I promise to defend him fervently if I feel he has been wronged, or if anyone dare say something untrue about him.
I promise when he is grown and in college to not stalk him...too badly.
I promise he will always be welcome in our house no matter how old he is, even if he is just visiting to get a free meal or to do laundry.
I promise someday to let go, just not today.
I promise that when he's an adult to listen and respect his political views, even if we disagree.
I promise to be supportive of his partner, regardless of who they are, because if he loves them and they make him happy, that's enough for me.
I promise I will do whatever I can to send him into the world a self-reliant, confident adult.
Above all, I promise to always love him.
I may not be able to keep all the small promises, which makes me feel horrible. But the big ones. The meaningful ones. I promise I will not falter. I'm writing this down so he, and everyone else can hold me to it. I will always do my best as a parent, and that is a promise I will always keep.