I am often told that I, “Say it as it is.” Or that I, “Call a spade a spade.” And in truth, I do. Well, what else am I supposed to call it? As I have become older, and perhaps a little wiser, I have learned at times it is better to say nothing at all. Or, as a friend of mine recently put it, to deliver a ‘shit sandwich’. In other words, if you are going to say something you know the recipient won’t like, at least lead up to it and follow it with something nice:
“You look lovely today. Your perfume smells like rotten cheese, but I love your new haircut.”
Actually, I’m not so good at the sandwich, I’m more likely to comment solely on the perfume. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is, when I say something, it’s because I mean it. The result is I’m a bit rubbish with social niceties, but people know where they stand with me. Including my kids.
If I say, “No playing outside until your room is tidy”, then I will stand by that. And it works the other way too. If I say, “We’ll go swimming on Saturday,” we’ll go swimming on Saturday. But sometimes, life doesn’t go to plan. Perhaps the pool has to close unexpectedly, and we can’t go swimming after all. In those moments, my heart sinks. I feel I have broken a promise to my child. Mother’s guilt strikes again. Perhaps I would be better to teach them to expect to be disappointed. Explain that things don’t always work out. But I can’t. Not when I am the one doing the disappointing.
And just in case my children feel the same way, and remember these times, this is what I say:
I am your Mother. I am the one with magic kisses who takes away the pain of bumps and bruises. I am the one who knows it was you who used all the hand wash in one go, even though there is no way I could possibly have seen you do it. I am the one tucks you in and squeezes you tight at night. I am your protector, your cheerleader, you fairy godmother and your confidant. And if something happens which means I have to let you down; if something happens which means I cannot keep my promise to you; rest assured; the disappointment I feel is tenfold that of yours. It doesn’t matter if the promise is big or small. I want you to have faith in me always.
So that weekend when I promised you cake at the wedding, but it wasn’t cut until after you fell asleep, I was more upset than you. That’s why I saved you some, and let you eat it for breakfast the next morning. It wasn’t about the cake. It was about the promise I made.
Because I do call a spade a spade. I say it as it is. So when I say I love you, know that I mean it with every single part of my body and soul. And if I cannot always keep my promises, know that it was never my intention to break them. And when I let you down in the future, as I inevitably will, I hope it is nothing that cake for breakfast won’t fix.