Keeping the Little Promises

“Mama, can you do a puzzle with me?” my daughter asked.

“Almost – let me finish putting these dishes away, and then I will do a puzzle with you,” I said.

She took my answer confidently and ran off to play while she waited.

But when the dishes were done, the water filter needed to be refilled. And then I glanced over to see her still playing so happily on her own. “Oooh, I could start the next load of laundry,” I thought to myself. “Or clean the bathroom real quick.”

But that would have been a mistake.

The reason my daughter was playing so patiently is because she knows her mommy will keep her promise.  She doesn’t have to follow me around, nagging me to play with her, because she trusts me to follow through.

And I don’t want to lose that trust.

(Also, I don’t want to have a daughter who is constantly whining to get something that I already told her I would give her.)

Little Promises

So when I say, “Yes, I will,” to something — even something small like a puzzle date — I take a moment to fix it into my brain as a high priority.  Otherwise, this busy mom can forget she even promised anything! But when I take a moment to truly focus on what I am saying (and maybe even write it down, if I’m having one of those hectic brain days), then I can follow through.

My daughter isn’t quite 3 years old yet, which means sometimes the desire for gratification is bigger than mommy’s words. So if I give her an answer and she keeps wailing about it, I stop her by saying “look at mommy’s face.” As soon as she does, I look her in the eye and give her my answer with as much sincerity as a marriage proposal.

And then I follow through.

This applies whether I said “yes, you can do that,” or “no, not right now.”  I weigh my decision, I give an answer, and I stick by it.

Maybe Later

I do have a third answer I give.  It’s called, “Maybe later.”  It’s often coupled with “not right now.”  It means “stop asking for at least two minutes. If an easy opportunity presents itself, mommy will follow through. If mommy doesn’t, you have the right and responsibility to ask again in the future.”

This third one is for my mommy brain when I’m too overwhelmed to make a promise.  Or when I think she will be just as happy with another activity. Because let’s be honest – this is an important consideration when you have a lot to juggle. And it’s not bad for her to get this answer sometimes.  She can practice following through to get an answer without whining non-stop (which is a great skill, by the way).

But this third answer can’t be the only answer I give.  The “yes, I will,” and the “no, we won’t” (with intention and implementation) is the way I build the trust with my little ones. They have a mommy they can count on. And I have children who don’t follow me around wailing for a peanut butter sandwich because they think I will forget to feed them.

Mommy keeps her promises.