My kids can’t keep a promise.
“I promise I won’t jump on you anymore, Daddy!” they blubber through their timeout induced tears. They seem sincere, so I let them out.
And then, when they’re back in their room after another cackle-filled session of jumping on Daddy, it’s “I armor promise, because it can’t be broken.”
Followed by the “wooden” promise, the “golden” promise, the “blue” promise, and the inevitable “yellow” promise.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, thrice, and beyond, it’s a trip to the emergency room for Daddy.
I have to say, it’s unnerving how the attendants at the ER see my bruises and hear my plaintive cries not to be sent back to that hell hole, and their response is to look darkly at the Missus.
The kiddos, it seems, are above suspicion.
I did a lot of thinking during my last stay at the hospital, and came to the conclusion that I need to teach my kids the value of keeping their promises.
Then I remembered what my dear Mom told me at the end of a particularly tear-filled Mother’s Day.
What Mom told me, what changed my attitude about keeping promises and telling lies, was the story of the Little Bastard Who Cried Wolf.
Mom told me this story so many times, I actually have it memorized, etched into my psyche since I was two. This is the story I told my kiddos, in the hopes of putting them on a new path:
Once upon a time, there was a yelling, screaming, vile bastard of a hellspawn, masquerading as a member of our family. He used to have a room, but was so badly behaved Mommy and Daddy had to put him in a pen in the backyard.
This family lived in a rural area plagued by wolves. Mommy and Daddy warned the tiny monster of a brat that he’d better shut his trap and keep quiet, or the wolves would come and eat him.
The demonic kiddo didn’t believe them. He didn’t think there could possibly be something more evil than him in the world. So in the middle of the night, he’d start screaming, “Help! Help! Wolf!”
Mommy and Daddy eventually made their way out to check, only to find the kiddo sitting on his stump/bed, laughing like a madman. “Woke you up! Made you look! Stupid Mommy and Daddy! Hahahaha!”
Mommy and Daddy, being tired, screamed at the little bastard until he began to cry. Then he solemnly promised he wouldn’t cry wolf again if there wasn’t really a wolf.
This cycle repeated itself several times, with the kiddo laughing his head off, getting yelled at, crying, and promising not to lie again.
Finally, the full moon broke through the clouds. The hateful child noticed, in the bright light, several pairs of glowing eyes at the edge of his pen. Eyes set in shadows which slowly resolved into wolves. Hungry, slavering wolves all staring at him, licking their lips and smacking their chops. He couldn’t tell if the growls were from their throats or their bellies.
“Help! Help! Wolves!” he shouted.
Mommy and Daddy, having stuffed their ears with cotton, slept soundly through his terrified cries. In the morning, they woke up, refreshed, had breakfast, did some housecleaning, ran to the store, and then went to check on their unholy child.
All they found were a few bits and pieces, partially eaten, and three very full, sleeping wolves.
The wolves made great guard dogs, and the family lived happily ever after.
I told my kiddos this story during a tearful timeout triggered by them jumping on me yet again. We’d gotten to the ‘golden promise’ level of their duplicity, and frankly, I’d had just about enough. Certainly more than my doctor would recommend.
“So, do you understand now why it’s important not to break your promises?” I asked.
“Yes,” one said solemnly, sniffling as he eyed and edged towards the bedroom door.
“If we lie, we’ll be killed,” said the other.
“By wolves!” said the first. “Can we go now?”
“Yes,” I said, and they darted from the room, yelling “Help! Wolf!” as they ran down the hall.
I suspected they’d missed the point of the story.
This suspicion was confirmed in the middle of the night, when the kiddos woke us with their screams and pounding on their (locked from the outside) bedroom door. They were howling, “Help! It’s dark! We can’t see and there are wolves! Under our beds! Help!”
The Missus and I looked at each other through bleary eyes, then laughed.
“How can they know there are wolves if it’s too dark to see?” the Missus laughed.
“I know. Those kids must think we’re stupid!” I replied. Then we put in earplugs and went back to sleep.
And now it’s nearly lunch time, and I haven’t heard a sound from the kiddos’ room. I guess one of us should probably check on them.
That’s odd. The dog is still asleep too, and looking distinctly rounder. He’s usually up at first light, demanding to be fed.
—And now, a word from our sponsor: me! My reproductive options may no longer be available, but my books still are!