December 5, 2013

The View From Here: Promises, Promises

The View for this first week of December (hello!) is from someone who isn't actually a blogger (yet), although she does write a regular column called "Triple Threat"
for the Capital District Parent Pages.

Like me, her name is Jennifer and is almost 40.
Unlike me, she lives in Albany, New York and has triplets!
She uses her BS in Community and Human Services as a
personal "social worker" for her family.

I'm not sure how she found me, but I'm glad she did, because she is a very interactive follower and that always makes things more fun. Her words below resonate loudly with me.

Promises, Promises
By Jennifer F. Steuer

I am weird. Well, no kidding! Aren’t we all? We each have our own idiosyncrasies and secret hopes for our futures. My biggest hope is that my children will be everything and anything that they want to be. I hope they will be happy and loved. My hope is that they will love and make others happy. I hope that all of my children can be authentic and true to themselves.

One of my biggest (and quite possibly best) idiosyncrasies centers around two little words, one phrase, eight letters. This tiny phrase can seal a relationship forever or doom it for all eternity. In two words you can deliver the moon to your child or destroy the center of a lover’s universe. Eight letters—half of them vowels, can stand between you and bliss or between you and the brightest smile on your child’s face.

I promise.

In a society that once believed in one’s word being their bond, we now let ‘I promise’ roll off our tongues without a second thought. The consequences of breaking a promise can be devastating.

When I was five years old and in kindergarten, my teacher promised us that on the very last day of the school year she would wear her hair down. She would free it from the bun and snood she wore everyday in an effort to beat the summer type weather found in Hawaii. The heat only got more intense as the days flowed in to one another as I waited to see my teacher’s hair. She promised the class. Thirty-five years later I can still remember the confusion I felt when I saw her hair piled high on her head on the last day of school.

The words can be spoken so quickly, so eagerly and so convincingly that both parties believe in this promise. My children know that I do not make promises, I believe in the power of my words. I believe that should I utter the words of a promise to my child I am bound to the words. My word is my bond. Children have this innate ability to understand ‘I promise’ and if I add to the vow ‘that I will be home before bedtime’ I have opened up a chance to disappoint. There are just too many variables: my car could break down, not start, a road could be closed, my child could fall asleep early, not go to bed, or the world could end. I would have broken my promise. ‘I promise that I will take you to the park after school’is fraught with potential heartbreak as well. ‘I promise you can watch Arthur this afternoon’—I can have every intention of letting them watch their beloved PBS show, it just is not in my power to control when the power goes out, PBS does not air Arthur that day or maybe the television was stolen. I wish the television would be stolen most days!

Promising my children anything is almost enough to make me physically ill with worry. I worry that I will not be able to make my promise, my word, a reality for them. The kids know how I feel about promises and for them this works right now. They know that if they were to make a promise they must be willing to move heaven and earth to fulfill their promises.

My unspoken promises are vows to myself about my family. Being pregnant with higher order multiples (triplets) makes you think, makes you beg and makes you promise over and over that you will do anything for the babies to be born healthy and safely. When seeking help to get pregnant I made a solemn vow to love the child God entrusted me with and to raise my child with a strong moral and ethical character. The thought was to have one baby…then there were three!

When it was discovered that we had beat the 4% odds of all three babies ‘sticking’ to me and then the 8% chance of all three babies living through the pregnancy, delivery and 40 days in the NICU, I promised each child a lifetime of love, good education and a future fit for a king and two queens. Or at least a few hot meals, lots of books and warm beds.

No. I do not promise anything. I do not accept promises either. I do not want to hurt anyone and I do not want to open myself up to be hurt. You see, part of me is still that little girl waiting for the last day of school to see her teacher’s hair and I do not want my kids to be thinking back over their lives and remember how I broke a promise that meant so much to them.

And really, do I need to add anything else to discuss with their therapists when they grow up? I don’t think so!

I must say, I feel the same. This philosophy is the same reason I dislike trying to answer questions about where I think I'll be in 5 or 10 years, or what my goals are. For me, it's due to being married to someone with chronic illness. I never know when some medical crisis might totally derail us from plans we had, or even that my husband just maybe doesn't feel well enough to go somewhere. I rarely tell my kids we're doing something until the day of, so as not to disappoint them in the event it doesn't happen. Sometimes I think it might make me look wishy-washy, but it's not that at all. I'm trying not to be flaky. Don't want to promise anyone anything I'm not certain I can deliver.

So thank you very much for this, Jenn. I feel ya!


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