As my oldest child grows older and is able to understand my words and their meanings and express his thoughts and emotions better, there are a few things I have found to be true. I've known them to be true in the past of course, but when you have a little-big child who depends on you, things take on even deeper truth, I think.
One of these things is that you say what you mean and you mean what you say. Yes, my dear five-year-old understands some sarcasm and jokes, but if I don't point out that I'm kidding, I can't be sure that he knows when I'm not actually thanking him for taking thirty minutes to find his underwear.
Consequently, when you're meaning what you say, you best not make a promise you don't intend to keep. Now, this is an ideal most people with decent morals attempt to operate on anyway, but when it comes to kids, a broken promise equals the end of the world and dire heartbreak on most occasions. It doesn't matter what your excuse is, legitimate or not, when you promise, that's your word, and a child understands that. If you aren't sure you can keep a promise, you probably shouldn't make one. If nothing else, at least assert that you're going to try to whatever it is you would be promising, instead of promising it straight up.
Another thing I find to be crucial is to never say never. If your child is anything like mine, he or she can come up with a scenario for almost anything in which never may actually fail, even if the scenario is non-sense. Try to out-logic nonsense in a child who swears up and down that they can fly up a tree. It's exhausting to try and prove them wrong, especially if they're not willing to try to fly up the tree because they know it's all talk. Just sayin'.
When it comes to my own children, but especially my oldest, I've seeing these ideas to be more important as days go on.
He's got some trust issues. I know this. I know it's largely because his dad promised to love him forever, that he would always be his daddy, always take care of him, stand up for him, be with him, and love him... and then he walked out. Now, he may still be his daddy, be with him in his heart, and love him... but it's definitely harder to believe, even if it is true, when your dad has been missing in action for almost an entire year.
Recently, my son has been questioning me. I ask him to trust me, and he isn't sure he wants to. When he does trust me, I better not fail him, that's for sure. I ask him to believe me, and he doesn't always want to. I know this is normal for most children, of course, but I feel like I need to take extra care to produce what I say I will so his belief in me doesn't dissipate by my own fault. I very rarely tell him never, unless it's something like "you should never run away from home" and so forth.
This morning, there were a few struggles with my son while we were in a strange place with a bunch of strangers. He already doesn't like large crowds of people he doesn't know, but I told him his grandma was going to be there, and then I got there too early and he started to doubt me. The more he doubted that, the more stressed out he became. I ended up taking 15 minutes or so to calm him, persuade him the place was safe, that I was with him, and that it would be fun. I "shared my brave" with him, because he kept telling me over and over he was afraid. I then made the mistake of walking away where he couldn't see me, and he shrieked.
It's that moment when one of the fears he had vocalized a few weeks ago was true and ever-present. He asked me once if I would ever disappear. He's asked me if he will lose me. He's asked me if I will leave him.
I hate to say never. But, I have said never. "No, I'll never leave you, I'll always come back. I would never get lost, I know my way around. You will never lose me, I'll be your mommy your entire life."
While these statements are all well and good, and said with the best intentions and sweetest sentiment, they say never. And sometimes, I do leave. Like this morning, I left, only for a few seconds, but those seconds were long enough to send the fear of my abandonment in a strange place. Of course, I come back. But someday, I'll die. He will lose me on this earth. We all do lose people we love. I've said I won't ever get lost, as he says he has lost his dad, but then every once in a while I take a wrong turn in a different part of town and admit fully that I'm not quite sure where we are.
His fear of abandonment is valid, though. I mean, his dad did it, so of course, day in and day out, he's going to fear somewhere inside that his mom will abandon him too. While I know I would never choose to abandon my children, his little heart just can't imagine that because one parent already did. So, day in and day out, I have to prove to him my constancy, my stability, and my promise that I'm staying. It's an exhausting thing sometimes.
I should never say never. I know it.
The only one who really should say never is God. He's the only one who will not fail us. Mothers are human and imperfect just like every other person on earth. God's the only perfect one.