Finish Your Veggies and You’ll Get to Watch Dad Eat Humble Pie

“Never break promises you make to your kids” is parenting advice I’ve heard since before I knew how children were made. Some people take it a step further and say, “Never make promises unless you’re absolutely sure you can follow through on them.” It makes perfect sense, of course. If I lie to my kids, they won’t trust me. And if my kids don’t trust me, they’ll think it’s a good idea to get teen-pregnant while snorting every drug ever off of rolled-up porn magazines.

“If you eat all your tomatoes, you can have some strawberries for dessert.” That was the deal yesterday at lunch. It’s a mealtime paradigm that my two-year-old is very familiar with (not to mention a golden win-win for a health-conscious dad). Imagine my horror, then, when I went to the fridge to fetch the promised reward and found…

P.S. Don't look in your wallet. Sincerely, your wi...I mean, still the strawberry gremlins.

…no strawberries. No strawberries? Panic! What to do!? You know, besides envision a future therapy session in which she identifies this moment as the reason she was never able to trust men.

I was halfway through dialing up my wife at work when a thought struck me. Perhaps there was still a way to resolve this without permanently destroying my daughter’s future. If she’s able to comprehend “do X and you’ll get Y,” perhaps she could also understand, “Daddy’s a moron and forgot to make sure we still have Y. Would you like Z instead?”

And so, with a deep breath of contrition, I sat down in front of her high chair and said the most humbling words I’ve ever spoken to my daughter: “Sweetheart, Daddy made a mistake. I thought there were some strawberries but they’re actually all gone. I’m very sorry. Would you like something else instead?”

While I was speaking, her gigantic blue eyes stared quietly at me, absorbing each word in turn. When I was done, she glanced away to process what I had said, then replied, “Have some oranges?”

Whew. Disaster averted. I gave her some orange slices and a couple of other things she asked for (because she’s growing, y’know, not because I was feeling guilty). Our future relationship was saved, and all because I listened to another great piece of parenting advice: “Always be willing to apologize to your kids when you make a mistake.”

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