My college friends and I started a tradition on New Year’s Eve, declaring what the coming year was going to be about. “The Year of Me” or, “The Year of Change" and, “The Year of Nope” were most memorable (even if our actions in those years didn’t entirely embrace the theme). I liked this approach better than making resolutions, which always felt like I was setting myself up for failure. That has never felt truer now that I'm a mom, because there are some New Year resolutions I will eventually break. I no longer resolve to keep much order in my dresser drawers, or to get to work early. I don’t need to be a hero. I brought children safely into the world and I’m doing my best to raise them not to be jerks. I’m doing plenty.
Still, it’s easy to fall into the trap of idealizing motherhood, especially when I look toward the future. There’s always the hope that I’ll be a better parent: later, tomorrow, next year. It’s very difficult to be in the moment of managing a tantrum and call upon my own determination right to be the best parent I can be, especially when all I seem to be able to do is maybe prevent my kid from hurting himself as he pounds his tiny fists into the pavement.
I’m trying to get out of the habit of setting these goals in the form of resolutions for myself just because one year is ending a new one is beginning. My kids don’t really feel that divide, so I don't either. Do I want to be a calmer, more organized, loving parent? Of course I do. But that's something I want to always be working towards, and not something I save for next-year’s to do list. Plus, when you have kids you can plan all you want, but you can never count on it going the way you think.
My kids are loud, and I blame myself. I try to put myself in time-outs when I get aggravated by them, but the heat of the moment often causes me to yell. And then they yell back. And then I yell at them not to yell at me, while fully acknowledging the irony of the situation.
Every year, as they get older and the friction between my two kids escalate, I promise myself, and them, that I’ll stay calm.
But I fail pretty regularly.
I make my kids the same lunch every school day. Occasionally they tell me they want something else, but then they don’t eat it and we’re back to a steady diet of hummus, pretzels, orange slices, and a cookie. It it isn’t broken, why fix it?
After you’ve come to terms that bento box lunches are a colossal waste of your time, you will be able to accept that fact that your kids are eating the same food all the time. Luckily, playdates are great opportunities to try new things, and my kids are always willing to be more adventurous eaters in someone else’s home.
I know how important it is for my husband and me to present a united parenting front to our kids. We do not want to play one of us against the other, especially because our kids sniff that stuff out and use it to their advantage.
But it can be really difficult to be on board with every call my husband makes about our children. And it’s hard for him to get on board with all my decisions too, especially the really bad ones, like when I pretend not to notice when my kid doesn’t brush her teeth before bed because I just can’t deal with another argument at bedtime.
I work hard at being better at this, but I know I might not be able to stop myself from rolling my eyes at something my husband says to the kids, or secretly helping them clean their room when he’s given them an ultimatum about it. I expect to make, and break, this same resolution for the duration of their childhoods.
I always intend to do this, but my kids continue to ask me questions where I am forced to say no. So this is really their fault, if you think about it. They need to set me up better. In fact, I tell them that. “Stop asking me things you know I’ll say ‘no’ to.” They are 7 and 10 and I think they should know just a little better, at least by now, how to get an affirmative response from me (such as telling me I’m the best mom ever first).
I know we need to give my 10-year-old more household duties. Right now, she is responsible for folding and putting away her own laundry, and that’s about it. We hold her, and her little brother, accountable for a bunch of other things, such as putting their shoes, coats, lunch bags, and backpacks away as soon as they get home. And they, of course, need to put away their toys after using them, and clean their place after meals.
But I still feel like a servant in my own home. Occasionally they’ll wash the dishes when asked, but I should make a mandatory schedule. And it’s not that many dishes, since we have a machine for that. It’s just that, given my Type A personality, I tend to want things done correctly, and if I let my children handle it they will not meet their standards. It’s not their fault, of course, because they are children. Still, it frustrates me to no end to spot food on the dish they just washed, or crumbs on their seats after breakfast.
I really have to get a handle on my reactions if I’m ever going to have them handle more chores, though. They have to learn these things anyway, and maybe by the time they have their own homes, they’ll be able to meet my standards. And then I’ll be back to doing it all myself. Great.
I do allow them to fail, but not as often as I should. Right now, I don’t force my daughter to practice her instrument, because it’s on her if she is going to embarrass herself by squeaking in the school band concert. But it’s not enough. If my child refuses to study, I shouldn’t nag. I should just walk away and let her deal with the horror of a bad grade. That is so hard for me to do, though, because I know my child can do well if she just goes over the material and checks her work on her test. But I’m not doing her any favors if she’s counting on me to constantly remind her how to do well. Eventually, she just has to care to please herself, and not me.
This is never happening. I work all day, and when I get home it’s all about the kids. So after they go to bed it’s “me time.” My husband and I eat a late dinner, watch 45 minutes of some show, and then, even though it’s after 10:00 p.m. and I am ready to fall asleep, I stay up for at least another hour staring at a screen usually. I’m not even doing anything crucial, I just so desperately want time.
But as the bags under my eyes get more pronounced, and my carb cravings ramp up, I realize that sleep will be my only savior. If only there wasn’t so much good TV to watch.
Maybe I won’t break this one again this year. But I’m keeping my expectations low, which I guess is an act of kindness towards myself.
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