As we embrace a new year and a new season, what is one of the first things we do? We think of all the things we want to change or improve in our lives. We review and scrutinize all of the previous year's (or season's) mistakes and shortcomings, sometimes embarrassed or pretending they didn't even happen, and try to see them from our own perspective, rather than what is reality.
Nevertheless, it's a time where almost all of us revisit, review and often criticize the choices we've made, where we have been or maybe where we have yet traveled. This can be both a constructive and demeaning ritual that we find ourselves practicing as each year draws to a close and a new year is blossoming right before us.
For a mother, we find ourselves saying, I wish I had more patience. Why do I lose my temper so often? I wish I would have spent more time with more children. Why didn't I follow through with the plans and trips I had for our family? I wish I wouldn't have said 'no' so often and tried to listen a little more closely. Why have I not set a better example for my children in practicing what I preach?
I wish, I wish, I wish... Why, why, why.... We can keep beating ourselves up with these same questions as we play them over and over again in our heads or simply just try to block it out and convince ourselves that we rock, we're the best mothers ever and make no mistakes. But the truth of the matter is, it doesn't change... any of it. Our past is nothing more than a story. Once we fully realize this, it loses its power over us. Accept it, learn from it and move on. Trust me, it will be the best thing for both you and your children. There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
As we move into a new season, I've listed 12 aspirations to try and aim for as we continue to grow throughout 2014. If you are anything like me, you will fail miserably, possibly several times, at the tasks below, but pray to God you come out of it a better parent. One awesome thing we DO have on our side is that every second of every day is a chance for us to start again. There are just days we choose to give up, give in, throw in the towel, choose to believe it's a bad DAY versus some bad MOMENTS. Instead, we need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try again... right then, right there.
After all, this IS a new year. A new season. A new start. With endless possibilities.
1. Forgive yourself, forgive your children for their mistakes, forgive your partner for his mistakes and after examining them and making peace with them, MOVE ON. We can't start the next chapter of our life while we keep rereading the last one.
2. Think twice before letting "no" jump out of your mouth. The past cannot be changed, forgotten, edited, erased... it simply must be accepted. So many of those "no's" could easily have been a "yes" if we would have stopped and taken the extra two minutes.
3. Count to three. Take a deep breath and slowly count to three. Remember, patience is a virtue. Patience IS a virtue. I'm so grateful for the saying that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Thank you, God. There is still hope for me.
4. Remember actions speak louder than words. BE the example for this. Children come to trust your words less and your actions more.
5. Let your kids know you're human. They need to know that Mommy isn't a superhero... well, not all the time, anyways. Mommy makes mistakes. Mommy messes up. Mommy does things and says things that she wishes she hadn't. BUT Mommy also learns from her mistakes. She tries harder next time. She doesn't give up. Mommy cries, she hurts and she has feelings, just like everybody else. It's important for your children to know this. So show them, or maybe on occasion reveal to them, this side of Mommy. Trust me; they may even love you more for it.
6. Let loose and be a kid, with your kid, every once in a while. You may have more fun than you think.
7. When the dishes are stacked, the laundry is piled and dinner needs cooking, I understand that these tasks can't wait forever. Although, there are times I think it's a wise decision that they temporarily take a backseat, depending upon the day and the attention your children need, but why not include them? Even if it's just for a couple minutes, let them dry a dish, put a bowl away, help 'throw' the clothes in the washer or my kids' favorite, 'push the button'. And all children love to help stir, pour in, be the assistant chef. But most of all, they just want to feel important and feel included.
8. You can never have too many dance parties, you can never check on your children too many times throughout the night (no matter how old they are), you can never laugh too often and you can never love too hard. Let yourself overdo some of these over-doable things. Once the moment is gone, it's gone.
9. When you start our day off exhausted, unshowered (again), unorganized and feel like you're just going to crumble to pieces, take five minutes to pull yourself together. Lock yourself in the bathroom, hide in the closet, stay an extra five minutes in the car (alone). Take some deep breaths. Regroup as best you can. And if you're like me, and thinking to yourself that you're already running late to work and don't have those long, extra 5 minutes, then make sure to take them as quickly as you can, when later in the morning allows. It's amazing ALL you can get accomplished in 5 minutes after having a baby!
10. Each one of us has something in our life that keeps us going, that keeps us looking forward to another day. Remember who your 'somethings' are. Tell them that. Show them that. Then repeat again and again and again.
11. Say "I love you" until you think you've worn it out (which my hope that this answer for you will be never). A child can never be told you love them, too often. But don't forget, not only tell them this, but show them this. Reread #4 and realize how critical it is that these go hand-in-hand.
12. Be good to YOU. Love yourself enough to take a small amount of time out of EACH day to breathe, to just 'be'. Trust me, you deserve it more than you think. And you know what, you just may be a better parent for it tomorrow.
Look at this new season as a rebirth. Create the version of you that you want to be. You have a blank book before you. So write a good one.
Long is a teacher, author, columnist, grad student, photographer, wife and mother to three, soon to be four, children.
Check out her book, 101 Moments of Motherhood, available on Amazon.