As a young girl, Angela Merkel’s father was gone a lot. He had to travel to see his congregation. He had meetings and church business to attend to. Like all of us, he was busy. He had work responsibilities, spiritual responsibilities, adult responsibilities.
It took a toll on his family. “The worst was when he said he would be right back,” Merkel later reflected, “but then it took hours for him to return.” Often she would find herself waiting for hours in the street, expecting him home at any minute, always to be disappointed.
All of us do this in some form or another. “It’ll just be a minute,” we tell them as we run an errand. “Let me finish this quick phone call,” we say, shushing them over and over again while they beg to play with us outside. “Dinner will be ready soon,” we say, knowing it will be much longer than that. “I’ll be home before it gets dark, I promise,” we say as if traffic could not delay us. Or like Merkel’s father, our trips and travels get extended and we miss things…or keep them up waiting.
While none of us fully control our time or our schedule, we do control how we communicate with our children–we control how we give our word and how we keep it. And it’s essential that we take that seriously. Our kids shouldn’t just be expected to deal with it. They should be communicated to and informed with respect.
We’ve talked before about explaining our decisions to our kids. Well, we owe them a similar explanation for the things that keep us away from them, that keep them away from the things that it is our adult responsibility to provide. It’s a matter of duty, to be sure, but more importantly, it’s a matter of trust.