For Keenan Watkins, a promise is a promise, even if it's one made absent-mindedly to his daughter while trying to whip up dinner for the family.
The Indiana dad of two (to 10-year-old Ash and 9-year-old Aayla) was recently photographed by a Goodwill employee pushing a naked baby doll in a cart. When the employee, Sadie Jessica Marie Collins, found out why, she was so in awe she shared it on the Facebook page, Love What Matters.
Collins' initial impression of the 250-pound, 6-foot-2 Watkins was that he was a "big dude" with a shirt that said "Punisher" and "tattoos on his neck and arm and even a skull tattoo of the size of my entire hand on the back of his head."
"Everything about him screams burliness and manliness yet, here he is, at Goodwill with a baby doll strapped safely in the cart as he shops for clothing," she wrote.
Turns out, the night before, while Watkins was trying not to burn a rice dish for dinner, Aayla had asked her dad, "Daddy Poo, will you take Davey (the baby doll) with you tomorrow, everywhere you go?"
"Yes, Baby Poo, of course I will," Watkins replied. It took another second and an excited "Really?!" from Aayla before he realized what exactly he just promised. Aayla somehow also got her father to agree to buy Davey some fitting clothes and socks while he was out and to take pictures of the doll for her.
Aayla also didn't forget her dad's promise the next morning when she reminded him to "go get Davey's clothes" as she walks down the driveway toward the bus.
It's not surprising to hear that Aayla remembered her dad's promise.
"Your kids will have an incredible memory for the promises you make to them. In fact, you can assume that any promise you've ever made to your kids has been remembered," writes certified parenting coach, Mark Brandenburg. "When kids are younger, they have very powerful emotions that dominate their lives. Kids live in their emotions, and when they hear something promised to them, they get very excited."
I can only imagine how well his daughter is cared for if he's willing to care for her toys this well.
Collins was amazed by how willing Watkins was to do what makes his daughter happy.
"I couldn't believe how well he treated his daughter's baby doll. It was incredible. I can only imagine how well his daughter is cared for if he's willing to care for her toys this well. I just think amazing parenting like this deserves recognition. This man sucked up all of his pride and went out of his way to clothing shop for a baby doll just to make his little girl happy," she wrote. "And if that's not love, I don't know what is."
Davey, a vintage, anatomically correct yard sale doll Aayla's mom got for $1, is Aayla's favorite. The young girl calls Davey her son and Watkins' grandson, and treats the doll as if he were real. That same morning, when she reminded her dad about his promise, she even reminded him to strap Davey into a car seat everywhere they go for safety reasons.
Watkins knew how important Davey was to his daughter, and he shared why it was so important to own up to his promises.
"I do not purposely lie to my daughter, and I do not purposely let her down," he wrote.
"I am the proud parent of two amazing and complex young children. Ash (10) and Aayla (9). A few nights ago, while cooking dinner for them, Aayla asks me 'Daddy Poo, will you take Davey with you...
Keeping and breaking promises can have significant effects on children. Kids as young as 7 can easily distinguish between different types of lies and hold promisers accountable. Keeping promises help kids develop a sense of trust and respect, not only with parents but also with others. While not every promise can be kept, repeatedly breaking promises can bring hurt and insecurity.
"If a parent consistently breaks their promises, then the child may learn that people's word cannot be trusted, and that it's OK to promise something and then not follow through," said Jodie Benveniste, a psychologist and intuitive parenting specialist.
People are praising Watkins for being a superhero and father of the year. But to Watkins, keeping promises is one of his basic duties as a father.
"I'm just a daddy that wants his kids to truly understand that I love them. I want them to be happy, and would gladly take on a potentially embarrassing situation, in order to keep my promise to them," Watkins wrote. "Father of the year? Hardly. Father? You bet."