Promises we can keep forever to our kids are promises kids can hold tight to forever.
As a guy of 43 who is also a daddy to three kids ages 5, 3, and 10 months, I accept that I’m not always going to be able to be there for them in the old-fashioned Earthly sense. Sadly, there are limits to this particular pageant we’re all playing at. But then I realize that my physical being doesn’t really matter that much because there are ways that I'll remain after I've passed on; there are little promises I can make to my children now that might allow me to love them forever. I hope I'll be able to lay upon the front stoop of my three kid's souls long before I take my trip into exploring eternal galaxies with a backpack full of endless hot pizza and cold beer and when I do, I want to promise them these three things. Because after all, promises we can keep forever to our kids are promises kids can hold tight to forever. And when you think about that, you're basically finding a way to hold hands with the loves of your life even long after you die. Badass, huh?
1. I promise to always help you understand why I had to discipline you.
I apologize to my kids a pretty good amount. I don’t do it in a way that lets them feel like me yelling at them for spreading mayonnaise on the kitchen wall is totally cool or anything like that. But at the end of each day, maybe we lost each other somewhere along the way and maybe I hollered or put a little brat in a time-out for a while. So each night I like to whisper in their ears right before they fall asleep.
“Listen, I want to tell you something. I looooooooove you so much and I am sorry that I had to be a little mean today to you, but I promise you kiddo, it's because I love you and because I care about you and because it’s my job to make sure that you live the best life you can live. And that’s the most important job in the whole wide world, okay?”
They sigh, usually. They’ve heard it all before. But I swear, there’s always a teeny tiny grin that comes across their sleepy face. And night after night, year after year, I think that what I’m doing is going to come back to whisper in their ears even when I’m just a shooting star chasing the wind.
2. I promise to teach you the right way to be a loving human being.
This one’s less complex and it ought to be. Even before my daughter, Violet, was born I promised her that for as long as long as I lived I would ram human decency and love and kindness and understanding into her tender young head and heart until there wasn’t even a remote chance that she could be grow to be anything but a god*mn bleeding heart ultra-liberal when it comes to living in a world with other people.
I made a promise to teach my kids the right way to be human, simple as that. There's a wrong way and there's a right way and never the twain shall meet. I teach my kids that skin color is the least important thing in the history of anything and I tell them that kindness is key to happiness and that happiness is something you can only ever even get a whiff of if you’re bringing someone else along with you for the ride.
I’m no saint, trust me. And my approach is probably as flawed as hell, to be honest, hammering away at them sometimes with my long discombobulated rants on stuff they don’t really get quite yet (or for the next 10 years.) But who cares? We also talk a lot about Spongebob and we have endless conversations about normal stuff, about shapes in the clouds and circus animals and where Santa poops on Christmas Eve (intriguing, no?). But I ease the peace and love crap into damn near every chat we have and I know it will make a difference. I just know it will.
I will die someday. And I hope to leave behind three kids that have no airs or disconnections or misguided thoughts of warped hatred (or even everyday indifference) when it comes to race or sexuality or religion or whatever true freedom, beautiful sweet Earthly freedom, really is. And THAT? That’s a promise I’m pretty sure will outlive me in the best possible way, you know?
3. I promise to do some fun sh*t with you.
Let’s end this thing on a lighter note, shall we? I’m going to be divorced soon. I live in a house by myself and I have my three kids half the week, which means I’m with them way less than I want to be with them. It sucks, but that’s life; you roll with the punches. So, I try and make the best of my time with them and continue to hold dear to me a promise I made to them very early on, and that’s this: We are going to do some fun sh*t today, even if we fall down in a heap of snot-nosed temper tantrums trying to get it done! Do I keep that promise every single day? Oh hell no. There are days when I’m too exhausted or the kids are too mangled up with tired eyes or weary bones for us to head on out into the world and tackle anything awesome.
Some days we end up just watching TV, but who cares? Because what matters is that I try. I really do. I take my kids to libraries and parades and fairs and all sorts of crap at least a few times a week and I’m not going to lie to you, it isn’t always easy. A lot of times, especially when it’s just single daddy whose face is about to explode because one of the kids is in a bad mood, it’s damn difficult. But if you’re a guy who works his butt off at his job and then just doesn’t feel much like doing silly kid stuff on his days off, I’ve got news for you: You're really missing out on something that both you and those kiddos will never ever be able to replace. Never. Ever.
I'm not gonna lie, my social life more or less died a swift death years ago when my daughter came along. But that’s cool. Sometimes I get so upset about it but when that happens I just try and breathe a little deeper/slower as we drive home from some hayride through a cornfield to pick pumpkins and the Three Amigos are all passed out in the back seat with small pumpkins in their laps. It's in those fleeting moments of real-time living that things come together. And for a second or two, things get very clear and I understand that it’s all worth it.
My promise to make my time their time won’t ever come back to haunt either one of us. Unless, of course, you someday consider a million awesome memories to be a haunting of sorts, my child, in which case I say, “Haunt us all ‘til the end of time, my good ghost!” Haunt us with the promises I made and the promises I kept. Rattle your chains and thump down our midnight halls, haunting me with those three bright beautiful smiles forever.