New Year, Same Parent

By Melissa Stefanec

For many, January is time for reflection and projections.

This chance for a fresh start comes with certain anxieties. Many people, myself included, look back at the ways they fell short last year. With these failures in mind and earnest intentions, we set the course for the seas of self-betterment.

However, it isn’t long before our intrepid minds crash against the lands of reality. When it comes to changing our habits, we often fail fast and hard. It’s human nature. Old habits die slowly. Thus, many of the goals we set for ourselves are inherently unobtainable.

Most of us aren’t very good at forgiving ourselves for being human. When we fall short of our New Year’s resolutions, we let guilt rule us. What started as a hopeful journey and a fresh start can quickly turn into a cycle of self-doubt and demotivation.

To sum it up: I don’t think forced resolutions are helpful. In fact, I find them to be the exact opposite. Meaningful change is incredibly difficult. Change is a journey. And that journey isn’t fleeting.

What if, instead of thinking about all the ways we should be different, we embraced the good in what we’re already doing? What if New Year’s resolutions were things we resolved to keep doing?
I firmly believe that positivity and good habits beget more of the same. So, this year, I’m going to share the parenting habits that I don’t plan to reform. I want to celebrate what I did right last year (and do more of that this year).

Here is my list of things I resolve to keep doing in 2022:

• Engage in outdoor activities
My family spends a lot of time outdoors. Getting fresh air and moving around is good for our bodies and minds. I’m proud to have raised kids who can spend time outside without getting bored immediately. I resolve that the rain, sun, wind and snow won’t stop us from enjoying one of our favorite things—fresh air.

• Forgive the books, books and books
My home’s aesthetic is piles of books. Where some people have sculptures, we have literary clutter. On any given day, my kids are reading pieces and parts of multiple books. My kids are avid readers. I resolve to keep having too many books be our aesthetic.

• Really listen
As a parent, I like to think I’m an active listener. I listen to my kids’ stories and problems. I listen to their small talk. I know what is going on their lives. I know who they spend their time with, even when I’m not around, because I listen when they talk to me. It isn’t always easy to listen. Even when I’m tired or overwhelmed, they know I am actually there for them and their words are important. I resolve to keep listening to my kids.

• Follow through
When I say I will do something, I usually do it. If I promise my kids we will do something fun, we do it. When I say there will be consequences for their actions, I follow through on those consequences. Following through isn’t easy; it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. However, children thrive with boundaries and consistency. I resolve, no matter how tired I am, I will keep following through.

• Raise kids with a social conscious
I try to keep my kids involved with volunteer work and charity. I also engage with them about complicated and controversial topics. I take my job of raising world citizens very seriously. It’s not easy to expose children to the ills of the world, but hiding these ills has serious consequences. This year, I plan to keep finding age-appropriate ways to have my children understand (and change) this world.

• Play family games
My kids live for board games and card games. Sometimes, when I have worked a long day and then put in my second shift as a parent, the last thing I want to do is gear up for competition. However, I know how important family games are for my kids. So, this year, I plan to keep making room in my busy days to play.

• Limit screen time
Do I use screens to babysit my kids when I need it? Of course, I do. But, as a general rule, my kids don’t get a lot of screen time. Do they appreciate those limits? No. Are they thankful that I value their healthy brain development over my need for peace and quiet? Nope. But, I won’t let their perfectly normal responses and my desperation change how often they engage with blue light.

• Spend time without my kids
From the time my children were little, I’ve made sure to sneak away every now and again. Sometimes, I sneak away with friends. Sometimes, I sneak away by myself. Other times, I get away with my husband. Whether it’s a brunch, run or small trip, I firmly believe that spending quality time without my children makes me a better parent. I resolve to keep making time for such this year.

• Conclusion
I hope that this column inspires some other parents to celebrate the things they do right. When we recognize our strengths and believe in ourselves, the good we do will proliferate. Best of all, when we love ourselves and stay positive, we’re being positive role models for our children. So, this year, my fellow parents, let’s resolve to keep doing what we are good at.