Parenting is, more than anything, one killer New Year’s Resolution. Lofty goals, dismal failure, grateful acceptance of reality.
When my first child was born, I aimed high as an optimistic 300-pound dieter on January 1st: I would be the mom to end all moms! The most patient, the smartest, the most dedicated. As a result I would imbue my son with the leadership skills to be president, the athletic training to win Wimbledon, the brain dexterity to be the next Einstein.
I’m not exaggerating. I really thought all this. Thankfully I told no one but myself.
Now that he’s 18, I’m happy my son made it to college without getting arrested. He plays college basketball with skill and ardor; I don’t care that it’s not for an NBA team. He gets grades that makes him proud – not me. Ditto for my two daughters.
For me, my failure to be the perfect parent rather quickly became about enjoying being turned inside out and upside down by my kids, not about setting absurd expectations for them or myself. To me, being a good parent is about enjoying the roller coaster ride of motherhood, while trying my best to give my kids a base of self-esteem, a solid education, and core values that serve as guides as they grow into grounded, compassionate, confident, happy adults. Fingers crossed, it seems to be working.
But when it comes to actual New Year’s Resolutions, that’s a fun and surprisingly validating parenting exercise. Forget about you here — no keeping your house neater, making it to the gym twice a week, or cutting back from six to four drinks (a day? a week?). Those kinds of resolutions are for single people. Instead, for families, New Year’s Resolutions can be a team sport. Ask your kids about their 2016 goals. You’ll be surprised, I promise. Their resolutions show you their character – those elusive values you’ve spent years building with no clues about your success rates — and offer a rare reflection of how you are doing as a parent
When my kids were little, their New Year’s goals brought tears to my eyes. To help mom in the kitchen. To finish homework by 7pm. To practice layups. Every goal spoke volumes about their compassion, their work ethic, their determination, their understanding that many of life’s gifts must be earned and paid back.
Their resolutions for 2016 surprise and delight me in different ways: my daughters, 17 and 13 — the same ones who refused to eat anything besides tater tots for a solid decade –want to eat healthier. They want to work harder in school. To get involved in new charities. And my son, the college freshman? He said he didn’t really have any resolutions. He said he was pretty happy with his life so far. Then – drumroll for mom — he cared enough about me to ask me what mine were.