The Who, lately, has been big into, “tricked ya!” As in: “Mama, I don’t love you. … Tricked ya!” or “I want poop for dinner. … Tricked ya!” or, my personal favorite: “Ok, ok, ok. I won’t lick you. … Tricked ya!”

It’s the age, I think. I hear from other mothers of kids in his class that “tricked ya!” is going on in their houses, too. So, as unpleasant as it is (especially the “I won’t lick you this time” one) I understand that it’s a natural developmental thing. Probably something about humor (we’re big into jokes these days, too) mixed with pushing boundaries. He knows, of course, that he isn’t allowed to lie, so by “tricking,” he gets to veil his honesty experiments.

Promises, though, are a different story. Promises are sacred and that’s been a little bit of a hard lesson to learn. But, the rule is that promises never get broken. Period. And that’s why we don’t make them lightly. Well, I don’t, anyway. He is learning not to. I never promise anything that I am not absolutely positive I can deliver and I am trying to get him to see promises in the same way. Generally, with a reminder, he can do it.

“I’m not going to lick you. I promise!”
“Do you really promise? Because there is no breaking a promise.”
“Ok, I won’t lick you, but I don’t promise it.”

We all know where this leads, right?

If the promise is made, though, and broken, it’s a punishable offense in the form of an immediate cessation of whatever it is we’re doing. If he, in fact, confirms his promise, but then breaks it anyway, I stop playing. Or we leave where we are. Or a toy gets put away. There’s a zero-tolerance policy for broken promises when he has been given a reminder immediately prior.

To his credit, he rarely, if ever, makes the promise and breaks it. And, often, makes the promise and keeps it, which I think is important. I want him to have opportunities to build my trust and see what that looks like. And also to see what it looks like to have my trust and then take it for granted.

Of course, the concept, while understood, is not always crystal clear. Tonight, for example, when I told him that we ran out of time to roll and cut Valentine’s cookies, but that we would do them in the morning, he cried, “but you promised! You promised we would bake them today and you broke your promise!” The real truth is that I didn’t promise because I would never make a promise I wasn’t sure I could keep — and I reminded him of this. But we all remember what it feels like to want something so much that you’re sure the story was different. He was sure I promised. In his memory, it was a sure thing. And a sure thing is a promise.

It’s a work in progress: trust and accountability. How to earn it, how to maintain it, how to be sure that it’s held sacred and protected. For now, sure. I don’t want to be licked when someone promised I wouldn’t be. But for later, too. In fact, for later especially. When he promises not to get into a car with someone who’s been drinking. Or promises that he is where he says he will be. I’m hoping that working on this now isn’t just about baking cookies and wanting poop for dinner. Although, I mean, who wouldn’t want poop for dinner? I LOVE poop.

Tricked ya!

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