A Promise or a Plan

Posted on: February 22nd, 2011 by Kay Swatkowski

A Plan or a Promise

“But, Grandma, you promised!”

All over the U.S., parents and grandparents  are being held hostage by children. We have been gagged and bound by 8 year olds as surely as if they had tied us up with rope and duct tape.

Kids instinctively know that adults will cave when they wail, “But, you promised we could go (buy or do).  You lied to me!”

Maybe you are one of the many moms and dads, grandmas or grandpas  burdened with guilt because you have broken “promises” to your children or grandchildren and have been bludgeoned with accusations of “You lied!”

Break free from those shackles that bind you!   Find liberty with this truth:  There is a difference between a promise and a plan.

Plans can, and often do, change.

Cars break down.  Bosses call.  Family members get sick.  It rains. Baby brothers need naps.  Toilets overflow.

Pets need to be coaxed into the car and then pushed, pulled or hauled into the vet’s office. Adults get bone tired. Unexpected bills come due.  Unexpected visitors drop by.

Yes, plans can and do change.

Our children need to know that a trip to a local pizza restaurant and arcade is not a promise, it is a plan.

One of the marks of maturity in an adult is the ability to be flexible and gracious with what Kathleen Hart calls “the suddenlies of life.”  Suddenly, the washer breaks down. Suddenly, the baby has a fever.   Any number of things can interrupt our days and suddenly change our plans.

Childhood “suddenlies” and disappointments can prepare our grandkids to effectively navigate the frustrations they will face in adulthood.  It is important for children to learn: “There is a difference between a promise and a plan and plans can change.  But, nothing can change my promise to love and care for you forever.”


In some situations, there is an emotional promise embedded in a plan.

A non-custodial father, dealing with heartache, anxiety and disappointment of his own, makes plans with a 7 year old son to go to a weekend baseball game.  Friday night comes.  No dad.  Over the phone, he consoles the sobbing child with promises of a sleepover the next weekend.

Throughout the week, the little boy daydreams about the fun he will have with Daddy. They will pretend  they are camping. Maybe they will build a tent in the living room.   Will his Dad tell him funny stories? Maybe they will eat popcorn and pizza.

They have a sleepover all right.  But, some of dad’s new friends are there or he is distracted, texting or talking on the phone, trying to work out some of the complications of his new life.

The struggling Dad is unaware that there are relational and emotional promises tucked away in this simple plan for a sleepover: ” I will be there for you.  You are worthy of my time and attention.  You can count on me.”

Do “suddenlies” still happen in families disrupted by divorce?  Of course they do.

Cars of divorced moms and dads still break down.  Work emergencies arise without warning. Single parents live with nearly lethal amounts of financial and time management stress.  It is important that parents discuss these frustrations in a matter of fact way without pointing the finger of blame at the other parent or burdening their child with guilt.

Grandparents can play a vital role in helping the family balance these challenging times  by keeping promises of their own.  Each kept promise creates  a place of safety and security for struggling grandkids.

Promises We Can Keep

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.”  2 Corinthians 1:20

God, the Father, perfectly keeps His promises to us.  He cannot lie.

He promised to provide a Savior. And, He did.  (Luke 2:11)

He promises to always be with us.  And, He is. (Hebrews 13:5)

He promises to forgive our sins. And, He does.  (I John 1:9)

He promises we can boldly come to Him in times of need.  And, we can. (Hebrews 4:16)

Life is complicated and messy.  Plans will change.  Our promises will not be kept as faithfully as we would like.  We will disappoint.

Each disappointment is an opening to gently direct our grandchildren to the Perfect Father who keeps all the promises made to His children.  We can redeem these moments of disappointment by sensitively telling stories of  our own experiences of frustration as a child and our growing realization that we have a Heavenly Father we can count on.

Parents and grandparents must exercise caution when making promises to their children.  Making wise promises  will limit children’s disappointment and our own guilt.  But there are some emotional and relational promises that we can and should make and keep.

I will always be there for you.

I will always believe in you.

I will always pray for you.

I will always support you.

I will always love you.

You can count on me.

And, that is no lie!

Copyright 2010 Kay Swatkowski

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