I’m ever so busy relaxing, and so I thought during this holiday week that I’d rerun some older columns that I always enjoyed, but haven’t shared on the blog yet. Here’s one from 2004 on New Year’s Resolutions. See if you can relate!
My husband is in the middle of changing his medical practice as of January 1, and I have a second book due in at the publisher the same day. So right now our lives are out of control, but next week everything will be different. Our time will once again be our own. This has caused us to do what everybody does this time of year: make New Year’s resolutions about how much more disciplined we’ll be as soon as the clock strikes midnight.
As parents, our resolutions usually concern our children. This year, I will not yell at my children (Probable time until breakage: 2.3 days). I will not get behind on the laundry (4.2 days). I will exercise (1 day). I will organize creative crafts for my children everyday (2 days). I will not eat my children’s candy (1.5 days if said candy is chocolate, 17.8 days if not).
It’s a losing proposition. We’re trying to become someone we’re never going to be. I recently got a new haircut that requires a little more blow-drying than usual. My 6-year-old sat me down this week and said, “Mommy, I think you should get your hair short again. You just can’t handle this.” And she’s right. I’m chronically pressed for time, and if I try to do something to ambitious, I just feel guilty when I fail. Better to set the bar lower and be realistic.
This is not, however, how society works. I was asked to write an article for a large parenting magazine on indoor activities to do with your kids while it’s raining. I came up with several suggestions, including drink hot chocolate, bundle in some quilts, and play Monopoly, or pull out that video camera you always forget about and have the kids sing a song. Then the editor called. It seems I was horrendously mistaken. I was interpreting the assignment as follows: you’re stuck in the house with really cranky kids who are fighting. You’re desperate to find something to distract them before they drive you nuts, but you can’t send them outside. So let’s take this opportunity to have some fun doing things we keep putting off, and build our relationships in the process.
But modern parents aren’t supposed to have these problems. We’re all supposed to be super-creative, energetic cheerleaders. They changed my suggestions so they went something like this. Instead of playing Monopoly, let’s get out the cardboard, paints, glue gun, paper mache, plaster of Paris molds, mactac, heat shrinkable wrap, decorative scissors, antique buttons, pop can tabs, margarine lids, and MAKE YOUR OWN BOARD GAME! The kids come up with the theme, the rules, and the playing pieces, and then you all create it together.
And videotaping them singing, apparently, is also too tame. Instead, let’s sew them some costumes as they practice a play with all the neighbourhood children, based on a classic novel you have recently read them. Once you have organized them into Chorus, Lead Roles, and Supporting Cast, they can create dialogue and choose props, such as everything you have in your garage, to create the play, which you will then videotape and give to all the neighbours. Or you can host an indoor Olympics, with an obstacle course in the basement, shotput in the hall, and a medal ceremony for parents at the end of the day.
I found myself wondering whose kids, exactly, they were talking about. Whenever you try to get any child I know to do a craft for more than five minutes, they lose interest, and you spend the next two hours grumpily putting it together yourself so you can display it and say, “look what Johnny made!”. And getting kids to agree who will be “Chorus” and who will be “Lead Role” is hardly a recipe for a stress-free afternoon. I decided this magazine wasn’t in the business of helping parents; it was in the business of making parents feel inadequate.
Don’t be a parent like that. Kids don’t need props, they just need you to hug them and laugh with them. I do want to spend more time with my girls this year, but you won’t catch me with any plaster of Paris. I’ll be too busy drinking hot chocolate and playing Monopoly.