Even if you don't believe in "resolutions," the new year is a good time to reflect, take stock, make changes, etc. What's on your parenting agenda for the new year? What are your Parenting Resolutions for 2013?
Tasha Schlake Festel
I'm not usually a big New Year's Resolution kind of girl. However, I do think of the new year as a fresh start, a time to set goals for the year. My birthday (which is July, for anyone who wants to send gifts since I'll be 40 this year!) is a great mid-year check in, allowing me to stay on track - or get back on track - for achieving the goals I set at the beginning of the year.
I have some personal goals for 2013 that have been on my list since I was about 9 years old. They include keeping my bedroom clean, returning phone calls in a timely fashion, and washing my face before bed. I've been attempting to reach these goals for 30 years, and I've yet to do so. Ever the optimist, they're on the list again: maybe this will be the year! I'd also like to run 600 miles this year (about 12 miles a week) and get my laundry washed, folded and put away within a 24 hour period - that's twenty-four consecutive hours, to be exact.
My main parenting goal of "not sucking so much" needed to be fleshed out into a list of actionable items. While that list is seemingly endless - let's face it, I have a lot of room for growth - I've prioritized to try to get the biggest bang for my parenting buck.
I don't want to overburden myself with ridiculous statements about how I'm going to be a totally different mother this year, a really good one! In fact, I'll settle for the step up of being "almost mediocre" in 2013. Considering my daughter has threatened to call me "Mrs. Festel" in public so she doesn't have to admit our relationship, the lofty goal of "not sucking" might be unattainable. But, a little of this and a little of that might just make me suck a little less.
I've known this was an issue for a while, but this Christmas really brought this one to the top of the list fast, quick and in a hurry. My budding 'tween daughter got an iTouch for Christmas and my son got a Nintendo 3DS-XL. Watching them interact with their "devices" for the last two weeks has been eye-opening. While my daughter can't make calls with her iTouch, she has quickly taken to texting. Her texting is limited to other iDevices, so she can text with me, her father and her aunts, all deserving recipients of her e-affection. After just 2 weeks, the kid is hooked. Unfortunately, when I get annoyed at them both for always staring at their hand-held devices, I hear that voice in my head. You know the one... "I learned it by watching you!"
Yup, I have led by example. Unfortunately, I haven't led them anywhere good. Damn it. Time to make a change. I will endeavor to cut my non-work-related screen time drastically.
Assume positive intent
A friend of mine introduced this concept to me, and I thought I already did it. After all, I'm an optimistic person and always expect the best from people. I assume they will be truthful and have noble goals. Unless, of course, they are my kids who are always guilty until proven innocent and constantly trying to swindle me.
But the thing is, I don't actually believe that. They're good, honest, well-intentioned kids who want to do the right thing. So why the heck don't I ever allow them to be that way? Whenever something goes wrong, I jump to the conclusion that someone has intentionally messed up. What a jerk I am!
From now on, I will do my best to assume positive intent. Kids do well when they can. I must remember that.
Find ways to say yes
"Mom, can I paint?" No. "Mom, can I have a snack?" No. "Mom, can I give Sophie a treat?" No. "Mom, can I wear stripes with plaid?" No. "Mom, can I hug you?" No. Wait... what?
I am so sick of hearing myself say no. It has become my default answer. Last year, one of my resolutions was to say no more. I meant that when it came to over-committing myself, not to denying my children. Unfortunately, I got carried away with saying it.
Would it be so bad to say yes a few times? Why can't they paint? Why can't they have a healthy snack? Why can't Sophie have a treat? What difference does it make to me if they wear horribly mis-matched clothing as they strive to find their individual style? What happens when they stop asking to hug me because every question gets the same answer: no? Yikes.
Sure, I still have to be a (semi) responsible adult, but I need to stop for a second before I answer and find a way to say yes. They can paint, eat, feed Sophie, and hug me, all while wearing completely unacceptable outfits. What's the worst that will happen? They'll ask to do it again and enjoy it? Oh, the horror!
Yes, I will strive to become a "Yes-Mom" this year.
My kids have incredible palates. They love meat, cheese, veggies, fruit, spices, sauces, and foods from every corner of the world. Knowing this, why do I feed them such crappy food, loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, preservatives, and hydrogenated soybean oil? Clearly it's because I don't love them.
Or could it be, perhaps, that I'm lazy? I don't like to pack lunches or snacks - or cook at all, actually - so I go the sunflower-butter-and-jelly-sandwich or Spaghetti-Os route far too often. I also an an expert at heating up Trader Joe's specialities and passing them off as healthy meals. Sure, I could do a lot worse, but I could certainly do a hell of a lot better.
With growing bodies and growing minds, I need to be getting healthier stuff into their bellies more often. I need to give them more protein, veggies and other healthy options.
I need to shut up and cook.
Reduce stress by being organized
I am a flake and the parts of my house that are not on the tour might qualify me for TLC's Hoarders. It's not pretty. I need to get my ass organized and reduce the chaos in my life. My kids feed off of it. And not in a good way.
I dream of the day when I go to bed with lunches and snacks already made. I aspire to one morning tell my kids to go get dressed and they find their dresser drawers filled with freshly laundered and folded clothing. I long to serve dinner without having to clear space on the dining room table first.
I did a crazy thing a few months ago and started actually writing down my commitments in a calendar. I know, I know. Nutty. But you know what? It made a difference! I knew where I was supposed to be! Just think if I applied that lesson to the rest of my life. We'd be in such awesome shape. We wouldn't be rushing and fighting and ransacking the house looking for the other sock.
OK, fine. I'll never be good at pairing socks, but I can certainly get better about planning for our days in advance. And that's certainly a step in the right direction.
Speaking of steps, if you see me making a few laps around the lake every day from December 1st through New Year's Eve, you'll know I'm trying to get within spitting distance of those 600 miles I said I'd run in 2013, sucking wind perhaps, but trying not to suck.
Happy New Year!
Well, another new year is here. It’s time for Weight Watchers’ ranks to spike, year-round gym rats to bitch about new members hogging equipment, and for legions of Americans to make irrational promises to themselves that most won’t keep—resolutions. According to Wikipedia (so it has to be true), in a 2007 university study about New Year resolutions involving 3,000 participants, 88% of people failed to achieve their goals. So, when you bite into that steak in mid-February after pledging a red meat hiatus for ’13, don’t be so hard on yourself.
I’ve made resolutions in the past. Like the masses, I had little success. I think so many people fail to keep resolutions because they set unrealistic goals involving sweeping changes that don’t fit into their lives easily, and I’m one of them. I’ve done a couple of lesser known fitness programs, P47X and P68X. I’ve completed three days of a week-long green juice reboot. One year I vowed to switch to decaf coffee, but then I got tired from staying up to watch the ball drop. It’s beyond me why I thought I could go from occasional, moderate exercise to working out intensely every day for three months, forfeit chewing solid food for a week, or give up my all-time favorite vice; but I tried.
There’s another fundamental problem with resolutions. We’re okay with abandoning them. Instead of an attempt at making meaningful changes and improvements in our lives, resolutions ultimately become a punch line. “There’s always next year!” you say, accepting a slab of sheet cake at a birthday party, or “I have a membership at LA Fitness, but I wouldn’t exactly say that I go there!” Ha, ha, ha.
I set myself up for failure annually by choosing complicated New Year resolutions. They’ve been a bust for me over the years, more or less. So, I’m giving myself simple guidelines for 2013 rather than hard and fast goals. In the spirit of my mixed success with New Year resolutions, I’ve pared these down to a short list of More or Less:
Move more. Sit less.
Do more. Talk less.
Read and write more. Watch less.
Eat healthy foods more. Eat junk foods less.
That’s it. Simple. I think these guidelines will lead to improvements. They’re flexible, and there’s room for interpretation. I won’t be able to beat myself up for not reaching a defined goal like running three mornings each week, or writing 500 words each day. I can just check in with myself every couple of weeks and see if I’m adhering to my list and make changes if necessary. If my New Year resolution tactic for 2013 doesn’t pan out, my resolution-failure punch line is ready: “Looks like I got my “mores” confused with my “lesses”!” Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.
My approach to renewal in 2013 will be centered on the unofficial theme, “Practice What You Preach.”
Sadly, I have slipped into the parenting style also known as “Do as I Say, Not as I Do,” since October when we welcomed our newest member of the family. I have slipped from the helm, lost my compass and have a ship full of mutinous, scurvy pirates. (I know, I already whined that my kids were in full mutiny last week. Bear with me.) It turns out that if your kids don’t see you at the helm of the ship, they lose respect for the rules of the ship and the captain. No amount of restating the rules, no matter how loudly stated, will make the pirates straighten out if they do not see the captain acting captain-y.
I have often exclaimed in annoyance to my kids that I am tired of having to yap and nip at their heels to get them to do things that they know are their responsibility. (What’s that? What? Brush my teeth before school? But I did that yesterday!) I gripe at them, saying that at some point, they will have to decide to do what is asked of them or do what is right simply because it’s the right thing to do and not because someone else is making them do it.
When I take a step back, though, I see that I am guilty of the same behavior. Can I maintain a healthy diet and fitness plan just because it’s good for me? Nope. It takes outside motivation- like an upcoming reunion to look good for, or a baby who needs nutritious food in utero- for me to make that kind of commitment. Why don’t I do these things simply because they are good for me?
I don’t have the perfect answer to that, but I suspect strongly that the short answer is: fallen human nature.
The general idea behind this year’s resolutions will be to hold myself to the same standards that I hammer into my kids every day. From here on, when I yell at my kids to “Stop yelling!!” I will not be able to deny the irony. (Not with a straight face, that is.)
I tell my boys to think before they react and not to flip out and imagine the worst before they even know what’s going on in a situation, but I’m quick to imagine a big mess when I hear a loud noise from the playroom. Okay, that’s a poor example, because a big noise from the playroom usually does mean a big mess…
My husband and I have been on a big campaign to help our kids learn how to get what they want without whining or violence because there has been an awful lot of both in our house, lately- mostly over who has which toy or game that may or may not belong to someone else. As for me, I’ve come to realize that I whine at my kids a lot, but often feel justified because I’m aggravated that they are fighting or not doing what they are supposed to be doing. I growl. I sigh. I yell. It’s time for me to restrain the drama. I want to follow my own advice to my children and refuse to give power to the thing or person that is aggravating me. I struggle with being positive, but it’s time to stop letting circumstances push me around and determine my mood. I think I will be much more successful in imparting this lesson to my kids if I model it for them.
I want my kids to be better than I am. It’s not very rational, then, to react with intensity to my own flaws, weaknesses and bad habits repeated in my children. I want 2013 to be a happy, less-stressful year. I want to be more pro-active instead of reactive. I keep forgetting that I’m the captain of the ship and that I’m the boss of me. This year, I resolve to be a good example to my kids of the good things I want for them and from them. That will probably take all year to get just right, but I love that I’ll get a new chance to succeed any time I’m captain enough to take it.
Happy New Year, everyone!
I think I like the idea of making resolutions more than actually making them. Making resolutions is so official. But the idea of making changes that will improve my life over the next year is pretty appealing, I just don’t know if I want to resolve to do it and then feel all defeated and demoralized if I don’t succeed. I want to just do it.
My kitchen is still full of Christmas cookies and eggnog and three kinds of New Year’s cupcakes and leftover Chinese food and wine. I did a really great job of giving up wheat and sugar and alcohol between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I have been happily indulging in all three from Christmas until now. That has to stop. I am not going to resolve to eat better. I am going to do what I did a few weeks ago … just for a little longer this time.
I do have a plan for the new year (don’t call it a resolution) for my family. As a family, we will strive to stop spending money on things (when we already have more things than we know what to do with) and start planning more experiences that we can share together. My kids are not particularly materialistic and they don’t ask for a lot of stuff, but I want to plant the idea in their minds that they should be thinking of activities we can do together as a family. I want them to write their ideas down and I will set up a box to collect them. I am hoping for more suggestions like “go geocaching” or “plant a garden” than “go to Disney World,” but I am curious to see what they come up with. A friend of mine just spent an entire year not buying a single thing. I know I can’t do that, but I can sincerely try to focus my spending on experiences rather than stuff.
I always start the new year full of energy and new ideas and optimism. Something about all the holiday hoo-ha being over really gets me in the mood to start something new. I can’t wait to clear all the holiday decorations out of my house. I can’t wait for the kids to get back to school so all the old toys that have been forgotten in all the Christmas craziness can disappear. My house always looks like a war went on here after the holidays and I am more than ready to get rid of all the old and make space for the new. I want to not resolve — but you know, really, really try to maintain my January 1 level of enthusiasm for clearing out what I don’t need — both mentally and physically. Happy New Year!