So here’s something that I do that I really probably shouldn’t do: I make promises to my children that I know I won’t be around to keep. More specifically, I make promises to my children that I know that my husband will have to keep because he’ll be the one at home when our children decide to cash in those promises, while I’m, say, on a plane flying to San Francisco, as I am today. Last night, for example, I promised our five year old, Emilia, that she could have gummy worms for breakfast if she went straight to bed and straight to sleep. I knew that I wasn’t going to be around for breakfast. I also knew that she was going to remember the promise. “Leave a note for Daddy, Mommy, so that he knows you promised,” she demanded. “Sure, baby,” I said, and promptly forgot.
So then, this morning, I’m sitting in the airport lounge, enjoying the luxury of being able to work at dawn without children throwing Cheerios at me, when I receive the following text:
I typed back: ‘on the kitchen counter.’
‘NOT **WHERE**. **WHY?**’
And then: ‘Really, seriously?’
He was being rhetorical, of course, because he totally knows that I do this. I promise Emilia that he’ll let her roller-skate to school, or that he’ll take them to a restaurant for dinner, or that she can play with his iPhone in the morning. He doesn’t do it to me, which represents a failure of imagination, I think. He leaves me on my own with them when he’s working on a long project, and he totally could make random promises that I’d have to keep or wriggle out of on the basis that I was not the one who made the promise, which totally wouldn’t fly with Emilia – she’s an aggressive negotiator of contracts, and would probably argue that a contract made by legal proxy is a binding contract – but still. In any case, he doesn’t do it to me, because he is a better person than I am.
Here’s the thing, though: I do it because it’s easy, obviously, but I also do it because it gives me a feeling of connection to him and to them and to the stuff that they get up to when I’m not there. I love knowing that, right now, they’re in the kitchen talking about what Mommy promised, exactly, and why Mommy promised it and how Mommy would fulfill that promise (would she insist that the worms be served on toast? Would she demand that they be washed down with a glass of whole milk? Would she limit the worm count to three, or nine? WHAT WOULD MOMMY DO?) I love knowing that I’m still there, in a way; that my husband is grappling with my parental eccentricities even when I’m not there, that we are, in some way, still doing this together, even when we’re apart.
I also love knowing that he has to figure out how to serve gummy worms on toast, but that’s beside the point.