Dear I, A and K,
When you were born you were placed in my arms and you trusted me. You had no reason not to. Your needs had been met absolutely and without fail for the nine months that were in my womb. When you are first born you have no reason to distrust anyone.
I value your trust. I value it tremendously. I value your trust more than I value being seen as perfect. More than I value being seen as a person of power. More than I value my own ideas of who I am. I value your trust more than I value my sleep. I value your trust more than I value convenience. I value your trust more than I value many things.
Trust is easily broken. I do not wish to squander it on stupid things.
When you cry because you are in pain and I don’t know how to fix it, I sympathize rather than dismissing it.
When you say that you have a need, I try to meet it. Or I acknowledge how strong that want of yours is, and how it must feel just like a need, and we talk about how we grow to understand our wants and how they are different from our needs. I do not get angry at you for your expressions of need or your expressions of those deeply felt wants.
When I say that I will check back on you, I check back on you even though I know you are asleep. I kiss your cheek, pull your sheets up, find your stuffed doggie and put him under your arm and tuck him in too. When you stir awake in the middle of the night, you’ll know that someone has been there to tuck you in and give you a kiss.
When I say that we will do something and plans change, I don’t hope that you’ve forgotten. I apologize, I deal with your frustration, I explain why the plans changed. I reschedule the promise or I find something similar. Disappointment is a part of life, but so are promises, trust, living up to what you said would happen. Sometimes it takes a full year to pass for that promise to be kept, but when I keep it I remind you of the promise made. I tell you that people are not perfect, I am not perfect, and that if a promise has been broken please remind me of it so that I can keep it, because it is important to me. Reminders are not nagging, reminders are a second chance to keep that trust.
When a pet passes away, when a toy breaks in your absence, when a family friend dies.. I don’t take the easy way out. I tell the truth. I share my grief. I share my perspective. I explain. I encourage and answer questions. I don’t make up stories about farms, I don’t ignore questions, I don’t build a fanciful world where nothing bad ever happens. It is all a part of life. Everything has reasons. I can provide you the building blocks of understanding as a child so that you can cope later in life.
When I make a mistake and you are angry at me, I do not try to sugar-coat it or twist your perceptions about my mistake. When I accidentally splash you in the face in the pool and you cry, I apologize. If I step on your foot I say that I’m sorry without acting as though you had no right to be underfoot. When I forget something that was important to you, I do not downplay it or pretend that I hadn’t forgotten.
I explain Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy as beautiful games of imagination and mystery, and we play them wholeheartedly and with fun. They are not a thing that I have created for you, they are something that we create together in a game of fantasy. A make-believe that you are in on from the start and that we craft together as a part of our own tradition. A magic that is not me-made, but that we discover together through storytelling and play.
When you ask me a question, I answer it. But I also look up the answer with you and talk about how information changes and how different people have different ideas about things and how and why things happen. I try to demonstrate the reasons behind the answer that I feel is correct. I talk about the funny stories that people come up with to try to explain the things that they don’t understand. I am not afraid to say “I don’t know the answer to that.”
When you say that you feel sick and do not want to go to school, I do not knee-jerk and accuse you of faking it or lying. I ask you if you feel sick because you’re tired, if you feel sick because you’re nervous. If you feel sick because you really want to stay home. We talk about it, we figure it out, I help you to be more truthful and then I accept the truth and we discuss the options.
Trust does not come from being perfect, it comes from acknowledging mistakes. Trust does not come from shielding someone from truths that may eventually come to be known, it comes from dealing with life as it happens. Trust does not come from lying to you to shield each of us from your emotional response to reality. It comes from facing things head on and with compassion and understanding and with providing you the perspective necessary to deal with things.
I do not get rid of that toy that I absolutely hate and then claim that it is “lost” while you look for it. I do not throw away the clothes that got ripped. I explain, and if it is something of value to you, you keep it. If we lack the space then we talk about options and space and I demonstrate my reasons and we come to terms. Your things are yours and I will not clear the room they occupy without your consent.
Trust is easily squandered. I do not wish to spend your trust in me lightly, nor do I want you to easily spend my trust in you.
I also wish for you to grow knowing that those who are trustworthy are not those who make themselves out to be perfect. It is those who acknowledge their shortcomings, those who apologize, and those who confront the difficult stuff head on. I do not wish to teach you that being lied to is a normal part of life. I do not want you to simply accept the things that you are told as truth without seeking truth on your own. I do not want partial truths to be “good enough”.
I love you enough to put the work in.