Dear Michael and Caroline,
When it comes to being a parent, I would like to believe that my performance with both of you over the years has proven to be absolutely perfect.
For however much I might prefer to regard myself as unfailingly attentive, infinitely patient, endlessly understanding and wise beyond measure -- the father of all fathers, a future Hall of Famer -- I've more than likely turned out to be selfish, distracted, temperamental and just plain dense.
And that's on a good day.
As fathers go, in other words, I'm no dream. Then again, I'm probably no great nightmare, either. Take that time I yelled at both of you over nothing whatsoever.
No, not that time, the other time.
The upshot is this: I've practiced parenthood for 29 years now, and if practice makes perfect, maybe in 2013 I can finally get it right.
So here, in the interest of achieving the massive self-improvement needed, are my top five resolutions along those lines:
1. Pay closer attention. It's widely rumored that I may once in a while miss certain key details in conversation -- though in retrospect, I forget exactly what they are. So the claim may well be valid, and I promise to tune into your numbers on the dial.
2. Give you some space. About 800 square feet should do the trick, I figure. No more rapid-fire cross-examinations about your latest activities, and definitely no more enhanced interrogation techniques to ascertain your career plans. You might find the extra elbow room, not to mention the extra breathing room, comes in handy.
3. Stop interrupting. See "pay closer attention."
4. Watch my tone. You often accuse me of coming off as sounding harsh and condescending. The only reasonable explanation for such a charge is that I probably do. So I'm going to take voice lessons. I may even practice scales. Come tomorrow, look for my much-improved B-flat.
5. Share less. By this point, I suspect you both know as much about me -- my background, my opinions, my philosophy -- as you could ever possibly care to know, and possibly a good deal more. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm occasionally going to clam up.
I could go on, of course. But instead, let's conduct a forensic audit a year from now to see how these resolutions pan out And please remember: the difficult may be doable, but perfection might take some time. Still, if I've learned anything, it's that every day the impossible becomes more probable.
Bob Brody, an executive and essayist in New York City, blogs at letterstomykids.org.