By Melissa Stefanec | MelissaStefanec@yahoo.com
One of my favorite ways to nerd out is to dig into some etymology. I love learning how words form and evolve throughout the ages. In honor of a new year, I’m going to dissect the word “resolution.”
Collectively, we throw that word around a lot in January, but most of us, myself included, probably haven’t dug into how the word resolution came to be.
Turns out, it was born in Middle English. It’s derived from the Latin word “resolvere,” which means to loosen, release or break something down into simpler parts. In the 1500s, resolution came to mean the solving of a problem; one who had resolve could figure things out.
When I put that historical context on it, resolutions start making a lot more sense. Perhaps, resolutions are nothing more than simple solutions that one resolves to accomplish. If I take a cue from the word’s Latin roots, my resolutions should be elemental solutions for everyday problems.
Instead of big, lofty goals that I don’t have the energy or time for, I need to think about simple things I can do that will effect meaningful change. In that thread, this piece will focus on my simple resolutions to help me be a better parent.
To be a better parent in 2024, I will listen, play and understand. More specifically, I want to listen better and more intently, play more often and better understand my own emotions and reactions (and help my kids understand theirs).
I’ve broken my resolutions down into categories, because “resolvere” tells me to be successful that I should break things down.
Play: I will play more of the games my kids want to play.
The adulting to-do list never ends. Many times, when my kids ask me to play with them, I tell them I will play later because I am busy. Sometimes, later never happens. Sure, I have responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take 10 minutes to throw a football in the yard or draw in the driveway with chalk to make my kids feel important.
Listen: I will look my children in the eye when they talk.
When my kids are talking to me, I’m often doing something else. Whether that something is stirring dinner on the stove, making a shopping list, coordinating an activity or gathering laundry, they often don’t have my full attention, even if I am listening. Wouldn’t it make my kids feel more valued if I paused, made eye contact and let them know they are the only thing in my world for a few seconds?
Listen and Understand: I will be less dismissive of my kids’ feelings.
I’m usually pretty good at this one, but it’s so easy to be dismissive. I have to remind myself that all human feelings are real. Kids don’t have fake emotions while adults get to have real ones. Although their feelings may not always make sense to me, I will let them feel those things and not talk them out of their own emotions.
Listen and Understand: I will intently listen to their stories.
Sometimes, I think adults find the wrong things interesting. There is so much more to a child’s story than meets the eye. When my kids tell me a story about school, a game or an interaction, they are giving me cues. They’re sharing what interests, bothers or stimulates them. If I listen intently, I will better understand my kids and make them feel more understood.
Understand: I will work on how annoyed I get.
How do I get annoyed? Let me count the ways. Dirty clothes on the bathroom floor again. Tiny milk puddles on the table. Bickering. Trash on their bedroom floors. Countless water bottles rolling around my backseat. Socks under the couch. Asking for something to be done five times. When I get annoyed at this stuff, I’m just teaching my kids to be annoyed by the little things. Instead of being annoyed, I can just be consistent, direct and kind when setting expectations for them.
Play and Understand: I will take them to smell the flowers.
I get my family outside a lot, but we often are rushing, even when we’re outdoors and relaxing. I resolve to get my family outside more and give them the time to wander aimlessly. I will do the same. That way, we have time to count the stripes on a bee and notice how many colors there are on a single flower petal.
Listen and Understand: I will listen to their music.
We are big music fans in our house, but my kids’ selections don’t always make the family playlist. I want to give them more time to DJ. I want to dig into what they love about their favorite songs. I want to engage with them and show them I value their tastes and preferences.
So, there it is, my list of simple actions that will help me be a better parent in 2024. For the sake of myself, my husband and my kids, I resolve to play, listen and understand. I plan to do that with some simple actions that I hope will really add up. Wish me luck, because the simplest goals are the hardest to keep.