“Dad, you promise not to tell?”
A Pinky Swear, in my house, is forever. It is an unwritten rule in my house that pinky swears have a half-life just north of Uranium-238. Just like how I never was able to figure out how my kids learned to open childproof containers, I don’t know where they learned about using a pinky swear as a bond? But sometime around the period they started talking, they started making me pinky swear to things (it must be one of those characteristics inherent to kids, like their hatred of baths). To quantify the magnitude of the Pinky Swear, take a ‘Cross My Heart Hope to Die Stick a Needle in My Eye’, multiply that by a Knight Templar Blood Oath, and add in a dozen Scout’s Honors and you have how much a Pinky Swear means in my house. So if there is information deemed valuable enough by my children, they will ask to notarize the telling of that information with a pinky swear.
I have been, for the entirety of my children’s lives, been a pillar of muteness. When they needed to keep something from their mom or each other, they have told me and we have sealed our silence with a pinky swear. Admittedly, I have let my wife in on a few of those swears but if I am not mistaken, the priest who married made me repeat something like, ‘To love, honor, obey, and to not keep any secret your kids may tell you”. If it wasn’t one of our vows, I think I promised to always share what the kids said with my wife because in her words, “You’ll tell me or else I’ll kill you”.
Though I take them quite seriously, more than threats from my wife, I always wanted to make sure my kids knew they had someone to confide in (not to mention knowing they can trust me). It won’t be long before my girls will be in their teens and then all bets are off when it comes to the information I will or will not be privy to. I understand my kids will keep secrets from me just like I kept things from my parents. I am merely hopeful that by putting the same amount of emphasis my kids do some of the things they tell me, they won’t stop telling me.
We all know parenting is about communication. Being able to communicate with our kids what we want, interpreting what they want, trying to teach them to use a tissue instead of their sleeve, and to not indiscriminately eating anything they find on the floor. Many of the lessons I have tried to teach to my kids have come by way of talking, pleading, screaming, and repeating, over and over again. Sometimes I feel like I talk too much. But now, as my kids are getting older, communicating with them means shutting up. My silence as I listen and as I hold on to what I have heard, can teach my kids more than anything I could ever say. By starting from when they learned to talk, I have been trying to build a foundation of trust with my kids that will still be standing when they are at the age when they think I’m a “dork”.
So for now and in the foreseeable future, I am the keeper of many a secret as told to me by my daughters. I have been made privy to who is getting what for Christmas and Birthdays. I have held surprises in. I know all about the boys my kids like. I know which dinners their mom makes that my kids hate (although I did tell her…she makes them anyway). I have also never told anyone about the time my daughter…well, I can’t really tell you about it. You see, my daughter made me promise not to tell anyone and I won’t because she has my Pinky Swear.