Published for Motherhood Matters – (click HERE for the link)

My first-grade son sat in the back seat of the car, arms folded. “I’m not playing today,” he said. “But the game starts in five minutes!” I countered. “I’m not going.” “You love basketball!” He shook his head.

I sat down beside him. “Why not, buddy?” He looked up at me and started to cry. “What if the basketball hits me in the face?” he said. “Did someone else get hit by the ball?” I asked. “No, but I’m afraid it might hit me,” he said.

The odds were so miniscule. In all my years of attending kid basketball games I had never once seen a ball hit a kid in the face. Plus it was cold and I wanted to get inside, so I leaned down until I was eye-level with my son and said, “Look at me, buddy. The basketball won’t hit you in the face. I promise.”

He dried his tears, took my hand, and we walked into the gym. I was glad that my son put so much trust in what I said. I had determined early on that if I did nothing else right as a mom, I could at least show my kids how to be honest and keep promises. It didn’t seem that difficult.

I was almost right. I had absolutely no difficulties — until my kids learned to talk, and reason, and remember.

The news recently reported that a senator misrepresented the truth while debating on the Senate floor. When asked why he had lied, the senator’s spokesman replied that what the senator said “was not intended to be a factual statement.”

As appalled as I was by the poor example set by an elected representative, I felt some level of empathy for the guy. When every word you utter is heavily scrutinized and taken out of context only to be used against you at a later date, having a spokesman explain your original intentions doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

I certainly could have used a spokesman after my son let go of my hand and ran onto the basketball court.

Minutes into the game, the basketball sailed off the backboard and smacked my son squarely in the face. Trying desperately to hold back his tears, the bravest kid on the planet was escorted off the court by the worst mom in history. At least that’s how I felt for a solid week.

I still suffer from occasional flashbacks.

I used to think nothing of making statements like, “We’ll go to the park as soon as your rooms are clean.” Not understanding, of course, that if it rained and we didn’t go to the park, one of my kids would randomly bring it up years later at Thanksgiving dinner, “Remember that time Mom lied about taking us to the park?”

The balance of my life will be spent dodging and defending promises I have unwittingly made over the years.

As my kids grow older and stealthier and devise new ways to paint me into corners, the list of promises I simply cannot make grows exponentially. I can’t promise my kids that they’ll get all A’s or find a clean shirt to wear or get a date to prom or go to Harvard or even that their hearts will never be broken.

But I can promise them one thing: I will love them always, unequivocally, no matter what. That will never change. I sincerely hope that the absolute truth behind my one single promise will make up for the many times when things don’t turn out as expected.

Like rain and ricocheting basketballs, for example.