12/31/2013 02:42 pm ET Updated Mar 02, 2014

Promises, Promises

As a general rule, I'm not one for big New Year's resolutions. I dislike the pressure involved in reinventing myself between December 31st and January 1st and every time I've tried, I've either forgotten what I've promised to do or given up within days. Regardless of the outcome, I end up feeling bad, so I make one final resolution, which is not to make resolutions. I break that one too. It's a vicious cycle.

Besides, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, right? Resolution, intention, what's the difference? I've been telling myself for a while that by skipping the whole resolution thing, I'm avoiding an extended visit with Satan. Unfortunately, I recently discovered (and by recently, I mean the past five minutes while I've been writing this paragraph) they don't mean the same thing. Not exactly. An intention is an aim or a plan. It's a little vague, a general desire, like my idea that I'll clean out the attic. A resolution is something more -- it's a firm decision to do or not to do something. A resolution is intention plus action -- a resolution can't be a casual thought, it requires follow-through.

As a parent, I intend to do a million things. I tell myself I will yell less, be more spontaneous, take the long view, put down my phone, be present. I am certain I will stop freaking out over the little things, remember to sign up for soccer and cease embarrassing my kids. Yet, I make the same mistakes over and over again. I blame a lack of sleep, deadlines, Little Dude's attempts to drive me insane, family emergencies and the position of the moon. My lack of success, however, might be due less to circumstance and more to my own nonchalance. My kids deserve better. Perhaps it isn't enough to say, "I'll do better tomorrow." Maybe real change can only happen with real commitment.

I'm willing to give it one more try. In 2014, I hereby resolve and promise to do the following (in no particular order and without any legally binding effect):

1. I will remember to make my kids lunch on the weekends. You'd be surprised at how often this one gets by me. It isn't until 3 p.m. when Little Dude goes into full meltdown mode that it occurs to me that he hasn't eaten in six hours.

2. I will let Little Dude try things, even if it means it will take longer, be messier and end with a questionable final product. This goes for baking cookies, art projects and chores. I reserve the right to deny him use of the lawn mower or car, no matter how much he begs.

3. I will listen. Even to the crazy crap. Especially to the crazy crap.

4. There will be a vegetable or fruit at every meal. Except for pizza Friday. Pizza Friday is special and sacred and is all that stands between me and a straightjacket.

5. We will exercise more as a family. This means I must go to the park and actually play with my kid. Checking email while waving blithely from the bench does not count, but if we walk instead of taking the car, I'm allowed five minutes of texting.

6. I will not overschedule my kid. This one is going to be a breeze because I barely schedule him at all. But everyone keeps telling me that overscheduling is bad, so I'd like to avoid doing it. Given my general propensity for sloth, I don't expect this one to be difficult.

7. I will learn to set an alarm clock like an adult and not rely on my 6-year-old to wake me up in the morning. I hope this will also mean I can make a real breakfast instead of handing him a bowl of dry cereal sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and some gummy vitamins. Hot breakfast will occur at least once a week, if for no other reason than to use up the three boxes of oatmeal I have in the cupboard.

8. I will treasure these last months before my stepson goes to college. I will not spend them deciding what color to paint his room when he's gone. I will wait to pick out exercise equipment until he's safe in his dorm room.

9. I will not laugh at inappropriate potty humor, but I will laugh loudly at everything else.

10. I will not compare my children to animals (but since I've already written a post in which I do precisely that, this resolution will not take effect until February 1st).

11. I will stop shaming my child when he makes mistakes. Thank you Brené Brown.

12. I will stop castigating myself when I make mistakes.

13. I will throw out every piece of unused, broken, plastic crap Little Dude has gotten in a birthday goodie bag, picked from the doctor's treasure chest, found on the ground, collected from friends or received as a gift. I will remember to do this while he's at school, not on Saturday afternoon when he's in the room with me.

14. I will not give plastic crap to other children.

15. Sunday will be a day of rest -- for body, mind and spirit. This means leisurely trips to the bakery for Sunday doughnuts, sleeping late and no plans. If someone else in the family resolves to make Sunday dinner, that would be an added bonus.

Fifteen resolutions may be a stretch for someone who has been unable to keep even one in the past 40-odd years, but no sense in starting small. I should probably also throw this one in for good measure: I will remember that resolutions are commitments, not vows of perfection. If I fail, and I will, I'll try again. That's the most important one of all. Come to think of it, that's also parenting.

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