The list of things I want to work on about my parenting in 2014 is long. I'll fess up to the top 10. I'll make copies for my kids or give them the URL to offer up to their future therapists to show at least I was AWARE of my potentially damaging behavior. Maybe good intentions count?
1. Curtail yelling and storming off. I am fully aware that raising one's voice to hysterical levels and threatening some nonsensical action, like not joining the children on vacation or never making another meal, is not useful or productive. And stumping off, while it does give me a moment to breathe, is probably not the best lesson in good communication tactics.
2. Listen better. Even though I make a point of being physically present so much of the time, my mind is often elsewhere. While that is unlikely to change completely given the number of tasks I juggle, I want to do far better at offering my boys my FULL ATTENTION, at least for specific periods. I am trying to institute a policy where the kids secure my attention before speaking, even if we're right next to each other, because I am sometimes deep in thought and end up not realizing some small person is addressing me until he is halfway through the sentence. Repeating oneself is never fun.
3. Have more fun with my kids. While I score points as towel and robe-giver, clothes washer and short-order chef, "fun" is not necessarily an adjective that gets used about me nearly often enough. I resolve to find games and activities that I can engage in with the boys that actually do float my boat and let me show them moms don't have to be boring.
4. Slow down. I call it my Drive-By Life. Sometimes it seems we're always just rushing from place to place, with so little time to be there, wherever there happens to be. While I love to be active, Oscar's gift to me of a daily calendar, "For Women Who Do Too Much," tells me my Supermarket Sweep way of living has been duly noted, and something's gotta give.
5. Ask calmly for what I want. I have noted lately that fear of disappointment often prevents me from asking my kids to do things with me or for me directly. Instead, I will express bitterness after I've walked the dog alone or folded their laundry. I'd LOVE to say sayonara to being so passive-aggressive.
6. Get over not getting what I want. I realize that the only way to achieve No. 5 and actually learn to be direct about what I want is to understand that sometimes when I want something, people can't or won't give it. Accepting a change to my vision without pouting is crucial to maintaining family harmony and inner calm.
7. Laugh more. 'Nuff said.
8. Count to three before reacting. Not stopping before saying or doing something thoughtless is, well, thoughtless. Counting slowly to three can save a lot of backtracking later.
9. Check devices less. Being where I am with who I'm with means email, text messages and Facebook will get far less attention.
10. Remember How Fast Time Flies. I can't believe my boys are 10 and 12 when a minute ago they were babies. Silly frustrations will likely fall away in my memory when they leave home in no time.
The important thing is to make these changes slowly and fearlessly, not to add stress while trying to reduce it.
Happy joyous New Year! Best of luck with your own lists.
Steph Thompson writes the Fearless Parenting column for The Brooklyn Paper.