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SALT LAKE CITY — I'm a sucker.
Every Dec. 31, I sit down with my family and I make them — well, suggest to them — that they write down at least three resolutions that they want to make for the coming year.
I usually come up with about 20.
At the end of the year, I look back on those resolutions and see I only met about 4 percent of those goals — and even those are iffy.
I, like most mothers I know, am hard on myself, especially this time of year when all of the holiday expectations are winding down and a new year whispers in my ear that I can be a new me, too.
This year, instead of making all of the resolutions specifically tailored to perfection, I'm going to mix it up a bit. I chose to recognize a few things. First thing first: I am an imperfect mother, and I'm OK with that. Recognizing that one totally acceptable thing about myself has made my resolution forming so much easier.
1. I will show my kids I love them.
First thing first: I am an imperfect mother, and I'm OK with that. Recognizing that one totally acceptable thing about myself has made my resolution forming so much easier.
In years past, this goal would be more specific: spend at least two hours each day playing with each kid; spend an hour a day doing learning activities with each kid; take each kid on a special one-on-one activity each week. You know what? All of those “eaches” and “everys” added up to a whole lot of time I didn't have and expectations I couldn't meet.
Next year, I will pay attention to what my kids are doing instead of putting them aside to check the latest notice my phone is pushing at me or get that last bit of work done on the computer.
I'm still not going to be the kind of mom who can spend hours on the floor playing cars — I just don't have it in me. But I will give as much time as I can that day to show my kids that I see what they are doing and that I think it is amazing. I will give them piggybacks down the stairs instead of rushing down to make dinner without them. If I have piles of laundry to fold and we haven't done our preschool, then we will be matching socks, counting pairs of underwear, naming colors and singing our ABCs.
Done and done.
I will include my kids in what I am doing and try to include myself in what they are doing so that no matter what, they will feel special, important and loved. There aren't any eaches or everys in this resolution, but there is success.
2. I will help my kids be healthier.
I'm never going to be the perfect food mom — there will always be boxed macaroni in my pantry and ice cream in my freezer — but I throw in the whole wheat bread and one vegetable with dinner, and I always talk to my kids about being healthy.
This next year won't be about only cooking from scratch or buying all organic. It will be teaching my kids about healthy habits and being a good example. That includes cheat days and pizza when the last hour before my husband gets home from work feels like 12.
3. I will not yell at or around my kids.
Being the imperfect mother that I am, I just know there is no way I will ever reach the point where certain things my kids do won't frustrate me or make me angry.
When I leave the room to use the bathroom and I come back and all of the cushions are off of the couch, a box of cereal is spilled all over the pantry floor and two of my kids are in a wrestling match to the death that is rolling into our brand new television, I'm telling you — I am not going to smile and congratulate my kids on being crazy hooligans.
What I will do is step away from the situation for a minute — maybe scream in a pillow during that time away — so that I can come back and talk to my children calmly instead of shouting orders around the house and scaring them into submission.
I want my kids to listen to me, but I don't want them to be scared of me.
Old me would make a resolution that I'd never yell again. I know I will. I'm just trying to take it out on my pillow instead of my 6-year-old.
4. I will not feel guilty or compare.
I will not feel guilty over the fact that my 4-year-old has worn the same shirt every day for a week to preschool because it was too much of a fight to make him change it, or that I need a break and take a substitute teaching job every once in a while.
I especially won't fill myself with guilt from the many nights over the last few months where I've slept on the couch with my 2-year-old because he's in a phase where he is, for whatever reason, frantically afraid of his room.
I will not feel guilty for going on a date with my husband or putting my child on timeout — both of which are necessary for either balance or structure, and I need to trust my instincts and choose my battles.
As a mother, I hear all of the rules and see all of the standards set by others. My kids’ clothes aren't ironed, but they are clean. My 4-year-old can't hold a pencil as well as a 2-year-old that we know, but he learned how to write his name, regardless.
Life places restraints on us, and it turns out — either from our personalities, money situations, or time constraints — there will always be someone better than us, making us doubt ourselves; or worse off than us, making us feel pretty good about ourselves.
I am going to do my best, embrace my imperfections, and not compare myself to others — for better or for worse.
5. I will not add unnecessary stress.
This year I'm going to set realistic standards for myself and not try to duplicate every pin on my Pinterest board.
My birthday parties will be simple enough that I won't be running around like a chicken with her head cut off the hour before the party. Even if that means balloons, pizza and cake and not all of the printables, party games and a homemade piñata.
I am going to let my kids pick one activity to participate in and not feel like a failure for not wanting to figure out five different schedules when there is only one of me driving the car.
Anything on my calendar that I know will just make me stressed out, and in turn become the crazy lady that lives inside of me and yells at my kids and husband, I am going to eliminate. I will replace them with things that will still make my family happy, but not send us into overdrive.
Really, this new pattern of resolutions is all about realistic expectations for my children and myself. This parenting thing has a huge learning curve, and I don't know if a parent is ever done figuring it all out. From each individual child to every specific time in their lives, the imperfect parenting moments are going to keep coming' and the resolutions are going to need to be made.
I'm hoping that each year's resolution will help me become more perfect at one thing, to prepare me for the next year when I'll need to focus on the next thing that needs work. I'll still be imperfect, but I'll be trying for and succeeding at the right things instead of failing at the wrong ones.