Friday, November 21, 2014

Broken Promise Land

The boys lake side on Superior, drift wood construction and a little agate hunting.
On occasion, my heart writes checks the bank of time, and sometimes money, can’t cash.  Sometimes this happens more often than I like.  Sometimes, so often, the broken promises litter the living room floor like candy wrappers on Halloween night.  Welcome to Broken Promise Land.

Well, they aren't exactly “promises”, but close enough for the under 10 crowd.  You give a kid the slightest hope for something fun and they take it to heart and mind.  Anticipation and expectations bloom in little minds that have yet to grow the weeds of constraint, like us grown-ups.  Their ideas become lush and colorful gardens, while ours resemble my real “I know there’s a tomato under this lamb’s quarter somewhere!” garden.  The weeds: our bills, obligations, lack of time, all steal from the anticipation and expectations to make an idea more realistic – not in itself disappointing, but less likely to disappoint if it doesn't work out.  For instance, finding that tomato in my garden has already been eaten by the resident garden worm.  Oh well.

But even knowing this, I like to think big, make plans and occasionally let them slip to the kids.   Rookie mistake, I realize, but I greedily want their excited little faces when they hear it and, I don’t have the patience to wait. 

This summer I told the kids *if they were good* I’d take them down to Lake Superior once a week when we go to town to run errands. They like to splash on the shore, find agates, build forts out of drift wood. It’s fun, and free.  We made it there three times.  In 12 weeks.  They weren't that good a couple of weeks, but it’s a lot to ask for them to behave while I work during the day.  A couple times the weather or T-ball games got in the way, but sometimes it was my fault, too much to do, not enough time to play. 

We also promised the kids a camping trip this summer.  We had it marked on the calendar, and of course picked the weekend of a torrential rainstorm with no back-up weekend available before school started.  I was just as disappointed as the kids were.  The last couple years the camping memories have been the best of summer and I’ll miss not seeing a 2014 trip in our photo album.  Maybe next year we can go twice.  Better not mention that to the kids.

I’m sure there are some lessons to learn in Broken Promise Land.  The old sales mantra of “under promise, over deliver” comes to mind.   Or maybe the kids could learn “you can’t always get what you want” without even knowing who the Rolling Stones are.  And recently, my oldest boy pointed out an advantage of his own, he mentioned that when I tell him he’s grounded for a week it never lasts that long, to which his big sister gave him a swift elbow to the ribs and said “Luke! Shush!”.

I want my kids to be able to keep their boundless anticipation and excitement for as long as possible.  So there’s not much I can do but make one more promise, no fingers crossed, to do better on following through on the fun stuff…and, maybe on the discipline too.