I take promises very seriously, especially those I make with my children. Yet even when I have the best of intentions, life has other plans and I end up breaking them. There are so many unforeseen events that we as parents — and humans — cannot plan for. Sometimes you can adjust plans to make things work, but other times, you just need to face the facts and deal with the aftermath.
A few days ago, during my son’s spring break, I broke a promise I had made to him. We had made plans to take a brief trip together, and he was so excited; absolutely over the moon. Then, as is so often the case, a last-minute change in my work schedule left me scrambling. Suddenly my best-laid plans were dashed, and work/life balance proved to be elusive.
I was caught in that terrible position so many working parents find themselves every day: I didn’t want to fail my son, but I still needed to fulfill my professional obligations.
While I knew I needed to first and foremost explain the change of plans to him, I realized there are several ways of approaching the situation. With children, it is much harder for them to adapt to change — especially when they have such high expectations around an event they were looking forward to. When they’re young, they can’t understand what could possibly be more important than the thing they want the most. For a tween, like my son, they may be technically able to understand why you would need to break your promise, but the disappointment is still very much there.
In the best of cases, you are able to present an alternate plan and make it seem even better than the original one. However, sometimes there is no great plan B, so you need to figure out how to make the most out of the situation and deal with your child’s disappointment. For those looking for a silver lining in an unpleasant situation, rest assured that it can provide for a teachable moment — even if that’s the last thing you intended or were looking for.
In my case, after a lot of rearranging and quite a bit of help from dear friends, I was able to come up with a great plan B — some would say the best plan B ever. We went to Walt Disney World for two nights right after I finished taping a morning show. Our time there was too brief — as it always seems to be — but we managed to pack in enough action and memories into our 48-hour trip to last us a lifetime.
While this time I was fortunate enough to pull off an amazing alternate plan, this might not always be the case. In the future, I will be much more careful about what plans I share with my kids. I’d rather struggle with keeping a secret than have to see the disappointment in my child’s eyes again.More On