12/31/2014 04:51 pm ET Updated Mar 02, 2015

The 4 Resolutions I Hope Will Make Me a Better Parent (and Wife)


It's New Year's resolution time -- the time when we all say we'll do all that stuff that we do for about a month and then quit (it always cracks me up how the gym and pool at the YMCA fill up briefly in January). I'm as guilty of it as anyone else; you'd think by now I'd have figured out that resolving to get more sleep is reasonably pointless.

But it's too bad, because when else do we really stop, take some sort of accounting of ourselves and our lives and actually think about doing things differently?

Ultimately, I don't care if I get enough sleep. As for other common resolutions... I already exercise, eat vegetables and have remarkably few vices. But anyway, that stuff doesn't matter to me anywhere near as much as my family. If I'm going to resolve anything, it should be something that would make me a better mom -- and wife. So, after some brutally honest introspection, here is what I resolve to do:

Get over myself. Not that any of us ever does this completely. But the simple truth is that I can't and shouldn't control everything, the world would likely keep spinning nicely without me, and so many of the things I get myself tied up in knots about, well, don't add up to more than a hill o'beans, so to speak. I have been having a sneaking suspicion recently that my obsessions and plans are not directly responsible for everything that happens in our family. Not that it's not important to care and to plan (obsession is less recommended), not that I shouldn't work hard at what I do. But I need to take more deep breaths, and keep out of life's weeds.

Goof off more. I goof off so little. I never seem to have time -- but then again, I never seem to make time. Goofing off can be highly therapeutic (assuming there are relatively few sharp or fast-moving objects involved). As a doctor, you'd think I would have done a better job paying attention to the abundant research about the bad effects of stress (although, since I've ignored the research about the bad effects of not getting enough sleep, I guess it's not all that surprising). And as a pediatrician, you'd think I'd be more in tune with the relationship benefits of hanging out with one's children. Instead of resolving to do more... I resolve to do a bit less, with other people around. (My plan for today: Make a frosted cookie pizza with my youngest and watch some Monty Python).

Have a bit more faith. I'm not so much talking about the religious kind, although there's much to be said for that, too. I'm talking about the kind where you believe in... yourself. Your kid. Your spouse. The ability of the universe to surprise you and not always disappoint you. Maybe, just maybe, there are alternatives to micromanagement and nagging (my family can attest to my tendency to do both). Maybe, just maybe, it's okay to let things work themselves out. This is hard for me. It's like that passage from A.A. Milne when Pooh says to Rabbit that sometimes things (like songs) just "come to him"; Rabbit didn't understand because instead of having things come to him, he went and fetched them. I am like Rabbit.

Really having faith means being willing to...

Bite my tongue. I have heard it said that the success of a marriage can be measured by the number of bite marks on your tongue. I do this well sometimes. Many times I do not. The simple truth is that most people, including spouses and your family, aren't so wild about hearing criticisms or I-told-you-so's, as accurate as they may be. If life, limb or the chances of ever being employed are at risk, or if one's opinion has been earnestly requested, okay -- but even then, it's important to emphasize the positive aspects of the outfit, haircut, project or latest friend, and tread carefully with the negative. I resolve to do this well much, much more often.

It will be worth it. At this point in my life and my career as a pediatrician, I've watched enough children grow up and lives unfold to see that the happiest people and the happiest families don't take themselves too seriously, goof off together, are optimistic and have faith in one another, and are supportive of and kind to each other.

So... you might just want to try these with me. If we get it right, even if we get it just a little more right, it could make for a really great 2015.