Anyway, when I say I give you my word, I make every effort to follow through. If somehow I don’t manage to do it… well, guilt and questioning will surely follow.
Twice a week, a tutor comes to the house to work with my children on Judaic studies. The tutor is very nice, and the boys like her. SJ meets with her first every session, and BR goes second.
The other day the boys and I were driving home from school. The subject of SJ going first for tutoring came up. I asked BR to go first for once.
“I don’t want to go first today.”
“Because SJ goes first. He said he would.”
“Yes, but you can go first for once. It won’t kill you. I promise. Besides, this way you can be done first.”
“I don’t want to go first today.”
“I don’t know. I just don’t.”
Sigh. “Fine. What about Wednesday?”
“Alright. I’ll go first Wednesday.”
“Okay. That works. You’ll first go Wednesday. Wednesday – you’re first BR.”
Wednesday afternoon came. Ms. MMK picked the boys up at school. BR came out of school agitated and insisting he couldn’t go first. The four of us went out for water ice in honor of Ms. MMK’s birthday (Happy birthday, dear. Love you). By the time we got home, it was just 20 minutes till the tutoring session was scheduled to begin.
The three of us hung in the car to discuss Ms. MMK’s birthday. Then I spoke to BR about his promise. “But you made a promise.”
“I know, but you made a promise. “
“You know things can change.”
“Of course they do. But you made a promise, and if at all possible, you should follow through. Do you know what it means to give your word?”
“I had a rough day in school.”
“What was so rough?”
“I don’t know. It was just rough. Besides I have had a headache.”
“You seem fine to me.”
“I have a headache.”
“Listen, when you say you are going to do something you need to do everything you can to follow through. Your word has to mean something. Do you understand?”
BR couldn’t or wouldn’t hear me.
Within two minutes of arriving home, BR was playing on the computer doing his normal thing. He showed no ill effects from his headache or any other alleged ailments.
When the tutor came, SJ was confused. He thought BR was going first. It got ugly. And embarrassing. When BR came to me, it did not get better.
I’d like to say we had a long heartfelt talk, and he now understands. He knows that his words must have meaning. He now knows that his words have consequences. He now knows that if he does not follow through, people will ultimately lose respect for him.
But we didn’t. Well, we did have a talk later that night after we (yes, I did not act behave particularly well either) calmed down. However, I still don’t know if he gets it.
Following through on your word is on my Mt. Rushmore of things that I want my children to get. It’s that big. It’s part of being truthful, responsible, and reliable.
BR will be 11 next month. Maybe, I’m making too big a deal over this particular incident. Maybe, he has not yet grown into understanding the value and importance of a promise and following through on your word.
I’m not sure.
I am sure that when your word means something, you will command more respect and appreciation. Every relationship – personal and professional – will be better if people know you are a person of your word.
So, I have a job to do.
And one day BR (and SJ) will be men. And I will be proud of them for many reasons including that they have become people of their word.