I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. The pressure to accomplish a goal just because the month has changed from December to January and the last digit in the year has increased by one. I understand the concept and have always supported friends, family, and coworkers who choose to turn over a new leaf in the New Year. My oldest sister is a big believer in making resolutions, setting goals, and sticking to them. I give her so much credit. She has a drive and determination that I envy. Perhaps that’s where my lack of interest in New Year’s resolutions comes from - my inability to keep one. I’ve done the typical weight loss resolution - “This year I will lose 15 pounds and fit into my skinny jeans!” I usually eat well for about 3 days before my cravings for french fries and deep dish pizza overpower my desire to fit in a size 4. A lot of it has to do with accountability. With no one holding me accountable, I easily lose focus and fall off track.
But 2018 will be different. Why, you ask? Because the other day my oldest daughter came to me with a list she had made. She handed me the white piece of paper which was numbered one through three, written in orange crayon. I smiled at her writing that slanted hard down and to the right. The letters were formed properly and most of the words were spelled right - well enough that I could decipher it. I said, “What’s this?” She looked at me and tilted her head to the side. “My New Year’s resolutions, silly!” Oh, of course, what was I thinking? But at 7, what types of New Year’s resolutions could my innocent little girl possibly have? Her list looked like this:
Recycle to help the Earth
Be nice to my sister
Read a chapter book
Wow. I was shocked. At her clarity, her vision, and her very practical and concrete goals. I was silent for a minute and she noticed. “Do you not like it, mommy?” I was quick to reassure her that my silence had nothing to do with not liking it - the complete opposite was true. I was blown away and inspired. “Mommy loves your list, sweetie.” Her next question made me think even more about myself and my personal goals. “Where’s your list, mommy?” The truth? I didn’t have one. So, I told her, “I didn’t write it yet. Why don’t we do it together? Right now!” And that’s exactly what we did. She grabbed paper from her desk and a pink crayon (my favorite color). We took a seat at the dining room table, my daughter sitting neatly on her knees, elbows on the dark wood, hands poised. She was so eager and excited. It got me eager and excited, too!
“Ok, number one!” She placed the pink crayon in my fingers and nudged the paper closer to me. I just sat there for a moment, staring. Why was this so hard? Was I afraid of failure? Afraid to let my daughters down? Myself down? “Maybe you should try to go shopping less. You have a lot of clothes.” My daughter’s pure honesty brought me back to reality. She was right. I enjoyed shopping - online, in stores, through catalogs. I don’t know what it is about a new pair of leggings, a cute clutch, or hair accessory. Shopping made me happy inside. But it didn’t have quite the same effect on my husband, or our bank account. The fact that my daughter noticed my spending habits made it clear that it was an issue.
“OK, number one”, I said, as I wrote:
Spend less money
“How about making more yummy dinners? Like pizza and spaghetti and meatballs!” My girls were pretty good eaters but they enjoyed the same things every night - mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, sometimes cheese sandwiches or even waffles if I was feeling especially lazy. She was right. I could get a lot more creative with my menus. Done.
2. Find more creative recipes
Number 3 on my list was another suggestion from my mini-me.
3. Spend less time on my phone
It’s amazing how insightful our children can be. They see things that we often overlook. My daughter helped me craft my New Year’s resolutions by simply observing my everyday behaviors. We sat there at the table discussing our resolutions a little further and how we were going to achieve them.
My daughter said she would help the earth by not wasting paper on her drawings when she messes up - “I can use the back!” We agreed to buy a small recycling bin for the kitchen - “For all our empty water bottles.” Her enthusiasm was contagious. She agreed to let her sister play with her toys and spend 15 minutes each night reading. Her list was set. Then, she helped me. I would throw out any catalogs that came in the mail (in our new recycling bin) without looking through them. If I do really want something, I can only use coupon codes or shop for sale prices. Moving on to dinner, my daughter said, “Maybe you can make one different a week” - I loved her suggestion and we took it one step further by deciding to use a family vote for what that one meal would be. Lastly, I would pick a certain time in the afternoon when my phone would go away - either in my purse or on the charger. A time where I would give my daughters my undivided attention. Every one of the resolutions my young daughter helped me craft were geared at self-improvement.
As mothers, it’s our responsibility to help our children develop and grow into confident, intelligent, polite, and responsible young adults. We’re supposed to help make them better people - the best version they can be.
Who knew that in the process, our children are actually making us better people, too?
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.