The end of the calendar year is a natural time to pause, reflect and assess what needs to be changed in our lives. We all know the drill by now: In the new year, you’d like to lose a few pounds, gain a few dollars and be a better person in a variety of ways. The pattern is so predictable that you should probably check your Facebook entry from January 1 last year, just so you don’t repeat your New Year’s Day post word for word.
When it comes to parenting, there are usually a whole slew of things we want to improve on in the coming year. We want to exercise more patience with our kids. We want to implement that foolproof organizational system promoted by someone on a YouTube video series we got sucked into at 3 a.m. And we’d like to spend less time watching Dora and Boots comb through useless items in Backpack. The problem is that New Year’s resolutions usually have the shelf life of a banana. They’re good for a week—10 days, tops—before they start to go bad. I love when I hear parents say things like, “This year, we’re going to spend more time outdoors and only eat healthy food.” And then in the middle of January, you see that same family taking turns drinking gravy straight from the cup in the food court.
In my opinion, the only way to truly make your resolutions achievable is to lower the bar. Way down. Here’s how to make 10 common parenting resolutions more attainable:
1. Be more patient and understanding when my child throws an epic tantrum.
More manageable resolution: Buy yourself a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
2. Make school lunches the night before.
More manageable resolution: Have pizza delivered to your child’s school at noon each day.
3. Be more financially responsible and squeeze the most out of every dollar.
More manageable resolution: Sell more of your kids’ items online while they’re sleeping.
4. Cut back on the kids’ TV time.
More manageable resolution: Only use the TV as a babysitter on evenings and weekends.
5. Make hearty, wholesome meals from scratch, like gourmet mac and cheese with Gruyère and Emmenthal.
More manageable resolution: Stop scraping the bottom of the pot when you eat the dregs of your kids’ Kraft Dinner.
6. Have more romantic date nights with your spouse.
More manageable resolution: Try to sustain an uninterrupted 15-minute conversation with your spouse at some point this year.
7. Diligently floss the kids’ teeth every night before bed.
More manageable resolution: Learn how to ride a unicycle.
8. Get your kids to sleep in their own beds, instead of yours.
More manageable resolution: Always have the guest bed made up so at least one parent can get a good night’s sleep.
9. Keep the house clean and tidy.
More manageable resolution: Refuse to allow another stuffed animal into your home.
10. Make more time to pursue your own goals and passions.
More manageable resolution: Get a vasectomy.
By taking this approach to your New Year’s resolutions, you’ll be amazed at how often you actually meet your goals—unless you’re hell-bent on learning how to ride a unicycle—and you’ll be much more content, instead of facing the repeated failure of not living up to loftier expectations.
But seriously, the best resolution you can probably make as a parent in 2015 is to just embrace the chaos. Having kids is messy work, and there’s no reason to strive for perfection. In most cases, good enough really is good enough.
A version of this article appeared in our December 2014 issue with the headline "New year, old you," p. 46.
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