Pie in the sky

31st January 2014 at 00:00

"Your new year's resolution didn't last long," my wife says. She has caught me explaining via the medium of the expletive why our new "multi-way bathroom toilet-roll holder" is at risk of defenestration.

On New Year's Eve, I swore that I would no longer swear while undertaking DIY projects. My wife told me at the time it was a resolution too far. Unfortunately, that time was three minutes before midnight and three whiskies after I'd lost the ability to ignore a challenge.

"I kept it for four days. It's four days longer than the promise on this thing." I wave the toilet-roll holder's assembly instructions at her. "Easy to fit, it says."

"Maybe it's just not easy for you to fit," she replies.

I read recently that fewer than half of all new year's resolutions survive beyond February. The author said this was symptomatic of modern attitudes: promises are made for short-term gain and rarely regarded as long-term commitments. It occurred to me that this was particularly true of children.

"Promise Thomas that you will never call him 'Dumbo the Elephant Boy' again," I say. It's lunchtime and Ryan is desperate to get back to creating misery and mayhem. I am equally desperate to get to the dining room before the meat and potato pie runs out.

"I promise," Ryan says. Then he apologises to Thomas and shakes his hand. And he promises to be Thomas' best friend from now on. And he won't let anybody call him Dumbo the Elephant Boy, Big Ears or Wing Nut. And if they do he'll punch their lights out. Or rather, he'll report them to a teacher. And can he go now? Pleeeease?

Four minutes after I release him into the wild, a dinner lady interrupts my meat and potato pie to return him to captivity. He's been calling Thomas "Dumbo" again.

"I don't like pie-crust promises, Ryan - those that are easily made and easily broken." I demonstrate by tapping my lunch with my fork but it is unyielding. I suspect this is not the pie crust Mary Poppins had in mind.

"He shouldn't have booted the ball on to the roof," Ryan says.

I begin to explain how important it is to keep promises when the toilet-roll holder metaphorically hits me on the head. How can I lecture a child on keeping his word when I can't keep mine?

It is a sad state of affairs when adults can't keep promises. This includes the builder who said he would come back and re-attach the gate he took down while renovating the wall he assured me was in imminent danger of collapsing. That was six months ago.

"You shouldn't have paid him until he'd finished the job," my wife says. "Have you tried ringing him?"

"Yes, but all I get is his answerphone message," I reply.

"I suppose you're going to have to do it yourself, then," she sighs.

"Just as soon as I finish fitting this toilet-roll holder, dear. You have my word on it."

Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield, England.

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