After years and years of failure, I eventually wrote off resolutions as a joke. Even worse, they became something to feel bad about and a way to beat myself for failing. I stopped making resolutions years ago because it was easier to just stop than it was to try again. This year though, I’ve decided its time to take up the tradition of making resolutions again. This decision came to me as I sat staring at a mound of laundry mixed with various toys and...well...something moved under that pile and I knew something had to change. (It turned out to be the cat. Phew! But we hadn’t seen her in a few days, so the situation was still pretty dire.) I had realized that as a family, we’d become kind of lazy. Sure we were all happy, active and growing but we could be doing better.
I mulled over this concept of being ‘better’ while participating in one of my all time favorite ways to procrastinate - surfing Pinterest. Procrastination: the #1 thing on my resolution list. Though I may wait until next December to act on that one. Anyway, I came across a graphic titled: Gandhi's Top 10 Fundamentals for Changing the World
Inspired by this, I’ve come up with my resolutions to be a better parent and ways in which I hope to help our daughter learn from my resolutions. Our children are reflections of us. Maybe if I teach our daughter these habits now, one day all of her resolutions will be fun things rather than a way to measure her self worth.
I’m terribly sarcastic. Without even trying I can slice even the thickest-skinned person with a quick barb. Usually I mean nothing by it. It flows from my lips as easily as my penchant for doling out compliments. Well let me tell you, it stings when one day, with even better command of this talent than her teacher, and without warning, your pre-schooler unleashes her first smart comment and series of ‘looks’.
That day made me realize that she is actually listening, so I had better listen to myself. They hear every comment muttered under your breath, every curse word you whisper when you believe they are out of earshot, and they see it when you roll your eyes or make faces at other adults. Adults they’ve been told to respect.
This year, I will change that. The kind words will outweigh the snide comments, the eyerolls replaced by attempts to understand the other person, and the occasional curse replaced by very creative euphemisms.
You are in control
No really, you are. Our daughter turned four this year and it has been trying to put it kindly. So trying in fact that I’ve probably exacted more control over a corkscrew than I have my own child in the past year.
I’ve come to realize that the way she tries to control us, she’s really just trying to find her place in the world and feel good about herself. This year we’ll spend less time throwing out ultimatums and punishments and more time using cues, being clear with our instructions, rewarding for good decisions, and being more patient and willing to try again and again. In time, we’ll spend less time controlling her because she will have learned how to control herself.
Forgive and let go
There isn’t a day that goes by that my husband and I don’t spend a good portion of the evening complaining about our respective co-workers. What should be our chance to unwind has unwittingly become a nightly session of poisoning our daughter’s sweet demeanor with our dissatisfaction. Every night I ask her about her day and lately, more often than not, she only recalls who was mean to her or who didn’t share a toy. I always tell her that it’s okay, that tomorrow would be better and that she should show those children how she’d like to play and be treated - even if they don’t do the same.
I’ve come to realize that its impossible for our daughter to focus on the positive aspects of her life when her parents can’t do it themselves. In the new year we will forgive and let go before we walk into the house at night. After all, if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.
Take care of this moment
Time moves so quickly. It’s far too easy to say you will do something in a few minutes, a few hours, or even tomorrow. That moment to play dolls, color, read a book, or go for a walk - they may not be here tomorrow. Life changes so quickly and opportunity rarely comes calling twice. When you tell a kid ‘no’ enough, eventually they stop asking.
Initially I believed my resolutions for the year should include staying on top of household chores. Now I realize I should keep up with crafting, storytime, building forts and coloring. This year, my laundry piles may not get any smaller. But I have a My Little Pony book that’s just begging to be colored.
Without action, you aren't going anywhere
We will get out and move more. Less TV, more sunshine. Even if it means just a 10 minute walk around the block, we will get fresh air every single day.
Everyone is human
Forgive yourself if you have a bad parenting day. Raising kids isn’t always fun and boy do they figure out how to push our buttons. We will lose our heads from time to time and yell. Or we’ll forget an appointment or event. It happens. Just try again tomorrow.
See the good in people and help them
So your husband didn’t finish the honey-do list that you wrote up for him...a week ago. Take a deep breath and think about all the things he is great at, the last time he made you laugh, or the time he snuck the kids out of the house early on a Saturday and let you sleep in. Don’t tear your spouse down for whatever they didn’t do. Rather be grateful for the good things and return the favor. Your child will see it and maybe they’ll be a little kinder to you in the teen years. (Hey, we can hope, right?)
Some days I want to give up on family life a few times a day. I stare longingly at the SUV in the driveway, wishing that it got more miles to the gallon. But I know that any minute, this could turn into the best day ever. All it takes is a smile, a giggle, or even just a little hand reaching out for mine. But I know that every day is different and better and as long as we work just a little harder, it will always be worth it.
Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self
Let the kid be a kid. They won’t have many more opportunities to run around the backyard in just their underwear, pretend they are a pirate, or eat syrup on their broccoli. Let them be goofy and wild and sing silly songs. They will grow out of it soon enough.
Likewise, be the parent that you are. Don’t worry about what the other parents think about your style. Don’t try to live up their idea of what a parent should be.
Continue to grow and evolve
Like it or not, the rules are always changing. Change is good - even when its not exciting or comfortable. Roll with it. Tackle it with grace and your kids will too.
What are your parenting resolutions for the new year? How do you plan to stick with them?
You can read more from working mom Kelly Brown over at The Turnip Farmer, When Kelly isn’t writing on her blog, she enjoys unusual crafts (it’s a fur hat AND a cereal bowl!), too much time on Facebook, and Moscato.
When she isn’t doing completely unproductive nonsense, Kelly can be found playing with her daughter and testing the limits of her husband’s tolerance for sarcasm.