Dear Riley and Connor,
I may never again get the chance to sit down and do this. You are two active, precocious, lovable, beautiful children who create your own energy together, the way an intense fire creates its own whirlwind. You spin and fly and run and think, and the threshold where I can no longer keep up is rapidly approaching.
Before frustration causes me to forget what I believe when it comes to parenting, I wanted to put my promises to you in writing.
I will try to be a different kind of parent. I’m sure everyone says this, but this is more and more a world of hate and ignorance, where a lot of people get their principles from a mob mentality. It is dangerous and I will not be a part of it.
I will always try to earn your trust and respect, not to demand or expect it from you without deserving it.
I will be less than perfect, and we will not always agree. You may hate me for what I do, but I will always try to do what is right and what is best for you and for our family, not for myself.
I will never try to humiliate you, especially in front of your friends (though I may sometimes be inadvertently embarrassing).
I will never lash out against you when I am hurt.
I will not try to be your friend, but will use my experience as an adult who was once a child, to guide you and lead you.
I will also let you lead me.
I will never, ever act like a child to punish you. I will sometimes act like a child when it drives us closer, not further apart.
I will never try to alienate you. You will feel like hitting me at times, and you even will. I will never retaliate with violence.
Yes, I will spoil you.
I promise to lose games to you. I promise to lose races to you. I promise to never keep score.
I promise that you can say anything you want to me, and you can also keep secrets from me.
I promise that you can complain and vent about me, to whomever you want, and I will not respond in kind.
I promise to laugh at your jokes and cry when you hurt me, but I will never try to hurt you back.
I will never try to intimidate or bully you.
I will fail at times, but I will always try to fix my mistakes.
I will not make sense all the time, and you will hate me for it.
I promise that I will know this.
I will silently weep in frustration as I watch you copy my own mistakes. I may try to help you avoid them, and I may stand by while you resist. I will not get in your way when you make your own decisions.
I will try to help you see and experience as much as I can give you, and it will be much more than I ever knew myself.
I will offer unqualified support and hope.
I will give you opportunities, not chores.
I will give you chances, not strikes.
I will give you wings, not shackles.
I will love you, no matter what you do or say.
It is not just love that matters, but what we do with it. I promise that I will use it to be your foundation.
I will be your ground, and the sky will be your limit.
Your father, Tom Bishop
(originally written in February 2012)