We’re not sure why, maybe it’s a tendency to claustrophobia, but two-year-old Tommy’s terrified of car washes. “I scared car wash,” he tells perfect strangers at the big park. “I scared car wash,” he says as I drive him home from day care. Ditto on the way to the pet store to see the fish.
Today is Saturday, and Lisa’s washing cars to raise money for cancer research. I have a plan. “I’m going to take you to see Mommy,” I tell him, “and you won’t be scared.”
He doesn’t want to go.
I shake his hand and say, “We’re not going inside.” Pretty safe, I think, since Lisa and her friends are washing cars in a parking lot. “I promise you we won’t go inside.”
I shake his small hand to seal the promise. Have I gone too far? I remember the admonition in James: “ . . . swear not, neither by heaven, nor by the earth . . . but let your yea be yea and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” I haven’t made an oath, of course, but maybe I shouldn’t be making promises either.
On the way, he repeats and repeats “We’re not going in.”
“We’re NOT going in,” I confirm and confirm.
His fears vanish when he sees the “car wash.” Lisa and her friends are laughing, the music’s playing, and the kids are helping to wash cars OUTSIDE. Tommy gets a sponge. He and the other littles scrub wheels, doors and bumpers while the grown-ups operate the hose and scrub roofs, windows and other high parts. It’s a party.
Lisa’s delighted. They’ve made over $150. I’m delighted. Tommy sees me as a promise keeper, although from now on I plan to state my case without making promises.
Flushed with victory and wanting to celebrate, I take him to the big park. After I’ve parked the car, Tommy sees an elderly gentleman walking by. “Hi!” he calls out the window.
The gentleman turns our way. “Hi!” he calls back.
“I don’t like a car wash!” Tommy informs him.
Rome wasn’t built in a day . . .