Well, the start to the New Year is swiftly retreating in my rear view mirror of regrets. So now I’m taking stock. Did I do what I said I would last year? Let’s tally the results, shall we?
Did I “Give Myself a Moratorium on Meltdowns”?
Although I still stew when getting cut-off at drop-off, I have managed to maintain my composure. I think that’s especially due to witnessing a frightening almost-come-to-hair-pulling, melee between two frustrated moms at my girl’s school. I have tapered off on the road rage, and have kept other grievances to myself. For example, when the phone company put me on hold, instead of screaming, I turned on the speakerphone while I addressed holiday cards. My daughter has been modeling my behavior and appears to be more emotionally resilient than last year. She does have her moments though, because well, she’s a child. But please tell me why she gets annoyed when I refuse to carry her “heavy” book bag for her, which contains all of a snack, a folder, and a pair of gloves?
What about ‘Cutting Out Cutting Phrases’?
I have been working hard on taming this behavior. I admit, I have called her bratty a few times when she misbehaved but the difference is that now I am very conscious of when I say it. She doesn’t know enough to make cutting remarks back to me, but is starting to understand what bad words are, and has mentioned them to me to see my reaction (thanks neighbor who just freaked out over a fender bender). I’ve told her not to say those words and she’s not using them…yet.
Her Grade: Not Applicable. Yet.
Was I able to ‘Reduce Random Gift Giving?’
I think I made the biggest impact on this behavior. I stopped the impromptu shopping sessions and now just plan what I’m doing in advance. Part of the solution, I realized, is that she is outgrowing the sizes and styles in the children’s departments, so that’s making it easier on me not to just pick up something at Gymboree, or The Children’s Place. I now schedule quarterly shopping trips or buy stuff online for that. My parents moved a few hours away, so she isn’t receiving weekly gifts from them either, which though we miss them has helped with her no longer feeling that every day is a holiday.
Her Grade: Well, that was my thing. But she’s responding well.
Confession time: I failed at ‘Taming the Television and Technology.’
Despite my best efforts, I do treat television like a babysitter and after-homework relaxer. But here’s my rationale: I don’t watch television during the day, but at night there is nothing more I like better than to relax and catch up on my favorite shows. And I’m a pretty productive person. It hasn’t harmed me. So if she gets to watch a little TV to relax after doing homework, then that’s fine with me. The caveat: Homework must always be completed first.
As for the iPad, I give up. Once she learned how to play Angry Birds, or Soda Crush (the more popular sister to Candy Crush), she became consumed, like her mom. Technology is here to stay, and so is the iPad. But there is hope on the horizon. Recently I’ve been getting her involved in educational apps. For example there is one that I like from National Geographic Explorer that lets her create her own maze puzzles and navigate through obstacles that come to life like wild animals, locked gates. I also like DragonBox Algebra 5 + which is great for STEM supporters like myself because it teaches kids concepts related to solving algebraic equations.
Did we ‘All Mind our Ps and Qs?’
I had been working on pleases and thank yous with my husband and I noticed a positive change. With my daughter we had a huge improvement last summer (maybe it’s something about being exhausted and running around all day like a lunatic at camp). That’s why it was such a surprise to me to see it again this Fall when school started up. I think the kids’ share little mannerisms with each other. One of her favorites: the nonverbal outstretched arm and pointing finger, combined with an accusatory “j’accuse” stare that implies that I’m a moron. She’s also mastered the broken record technique, which is supposed to be the purview of parents. But when she has asked for a piece of gum for the umpteenth time, hammering away at my many excuses (she’ll brush her teeth afterward, she won’t run with it in her mouth, she’ll only take one piece), I am known to eventually cave. I guess I don’t have as much fear of gum as I do of chocolate, since I’m a card-carrying chocoholic, and want to avoid that fate for her. Hey, with all the debating she does maybe she’ll end up being a lawyer.
Does she Have a Better Bedtime Routine?
I wrote about sleeping before and why we don’t let her sleep in our bed. Going to bed used to be an ordeal, but now I make sure she had a good, filling dinner and milk (I believe the tryptophan helps relax her), a little cuddling beforehand, and by 7:30 or 8:00 it’s lights out and tucked in. She gets up for a bathroom break one time, and then she is down for the night. I really don’t need to remind her of her schedule much any more.
Did we ‘Fake It ‘Til We Bake It?’
Look I admit it: my idea to bake with her regularly was a bit of a miss. Unless it’s a special occasion like her or my husband’s birthday or a big party I just don’t have the tolerance or stamina or interest in it. We did bake cookies around the holidays and a few other times, but this has not worked out because of scheduling, dietary restrictions (mine) and my need to reduce her sugar intake when she is already salivating over sweet treats from our local bakery that my husband brings home. In my defense, she doesn’t seem to mind it a bit.
Her Grade: Not Applicable
What did I do to ‘Demonstrate that Charity Begins at Home?’
So here is where it gets complicated. I know I vowed in 2015 to institute a charitable act a month. We didn’t do that… not exactly. We did make a few charitable decisions and explained to my daughter why we were doing it, and she understands. For example, we bought a subscription to Love with Food. With this deal, once a month you get a box of snacks. For each box you get, you donate a meal to a food bank around the U.S. Although it is not a nonprofit, Love with Food has donated over 7,000 meals in this way. My daughter was also involved in activities at her school: a food drive, where we donated canned goods to a local shelter, and a school pajama drive, where we donated a new pair of warm pajamas for children and adults living in group homes and orphanages. She especially loved that for each pair of pajamas collected, Scholastic donated a new book to the organization that received the donations.
So that’s where we are. But as you know, time stands still for no mom. In 2016, we are addressing some brand new issues:
Since December of last year my child has lost two pairs of winter gloves, one pair of gold sneaker boots, and her school folder has been lost and found more times than I can count. I get it. I used to lose my keys to the house and the car, until I hit on a solution. I bought one of those pouches you sling on the door knob, and the minute I get home, I throw all sets of keys in there. Done. Now I know where to find them, and it frees up a lot of space in my mind. I’ve initiated the same rules for my daughter. Keep everything in one place. We’ll see how that goes.
My daughter’s room looks like what you would see in still life photos of the aftermath of a hurricane. You might say that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree (and I would tell you that it’s a cliché, but you are right). While my home is fairly neat and organized, my bedroom is the last bastion of clutter in our home and where paper products (magazines, clippings, notes from conference calls and clients) go to die. Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, would tell me to find a home for every piece of paper, and I would tell her to get a life. I already have one, and it’s a little bit messy. However, since I want to be a good role model for my daughter, I am going to clean up my act in 2016.
With all this work she is doing (in school and at home), one of my main goals for her this year is to carve out some white space for both of us—a time to refresh, unplug and rejuvenate—unstructured downtime. In that spirit, I’ve added far less after school activities to her schedule this year.
Whether we cuddle together, do a puzzle, read to each other or dance around the room, I think we’ll find a sense of peace and purpose from with which to address our challenges.
Her beloved Elsa from Frozen may sing, “Let It Go,” but for 2016 my mantra is going to be Let Us Try.
Estelle Erasmus is a journalist and writing coach. You can find her on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.
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