"Your daughter is so helpful and well-behaved."
As my friend praised my 5-year-old daughter, I felt proud -- and also a little ashamed. We'd had a long car ride over, during the course of which, in dealing with my screaming 2-year-old, I'd missed my exit and lost my cool, shouting and putting everyone on edge. My daughter's response to Mommy's outburst? "Don't worry, Mommy," she said, turning to her little brother. "I'll take care of him. You just focus on driving."
Yes, my daughter is remarkably mature and helpful. Mommy, on the other hand, could use some work. But it's a new year, and a good time to start fresh -- to put my bad behaviors in time-out and inch a little closer to the parent I want to be. Here are five things I'm going to do better in 2015.
1. Yell less, breathe more. Yes, my daughter may have knocked over her cup for the third time. Or my son may be writhing on the supermarket floor because he was denied a lollipop. But yelling only proves that Mommy is just as crazy as the kids -- worse, in fact, because one day the kids will grow up, and Mommy will still be a ranting lunatic. Instead, I'm going to focus on stepping back and breathing when things get overwhelming. I may not be able to change the situation, but I can regain control of myself. Welcome 2015, my year of Zen.
2. Consider my plate under surveillance. I've always had a bit of a sweet tooth. However, lately I've noticed my son watching everything I consume, coveting each unhealthy morsel on my plate. Apparently, if I want him to get excited about vegetables, serving up some broccoli isn't enough. I'm going to have to develop better habits myself, and rethink what goes on Mommy's plate each day. Goodbye chocolate-chip muffin(s) for breakfast. We had a good run.
3. Break my smartphone addiction. Once upon a time, I had very few bad habits. I didn't smoke, rarely drank, and never saw a single episode of Real Housewives. Then I got an iPhone, and suddenly, I was an addict. Now, if I go too long without checking email or Facebook -- or even the weather app -- I'm in complete withdrawal. While I try not to check my phone when I'm with my family, I constantly feel its pull, taunting me with its irresistible HD display and 8 mega-pixel camera. But no more. This is going to be the year I turn the damn thing off and get on with my life. At least until I can sneak into a bathroom for a quick slide-to-unlock fix.
4. Give back to the community. In 2014, I made it my mission to introduce my daughter to volunteerism. We got off to a great start, distributing flyers for the local food bank and volunteering with 10,000 PB&Js to make sandwiches for New York City's homeless. But then the holidays came, and giving back took a backseat to Christmas cards and Santa Claus. This year, I'm going to resume my quest to get my kids volunteering. Whether they're making sandwiches or donating toys, they're going to learn that they can make a difference.
5. Get outta here. My 2-year-old can be rather, well, destructive. I've reached a point where it's just easier to stay home than to venture out where he can commit various acts of vandalism and petty larceny. While I initially planned to stay home for the next 15 years or so, I'm starting to think that these kids need more stimulation. Whether it's a museum or the aquarium, in 2015 we're re-entering the world -- even if my son has to observe some of it from his stroller. Hey, it's a start.
While I don't expect to become the perfect parent the moment the New Year's Eve ball drops (assuming I'm even still awake), I know there are changes I can make. Whether I'm hitting the soup kitchen or simply turning off my phone, I plan on making the year ahead one I can be proud of as a mom. Maybe I'll even search for my lost gym membership card. Or not. After all, I have to save something for 2016.