Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting resolutions!
This is the first monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we're writing about how we want to parent differently — or the same — in the New Year. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I've gotten a lot of comments from people who don't do resolutions but who wanted to participate in the blog carnival. If you need someone to blame for choosing that theme, I'm your target, because it just seemed so January-approriate that I couldn't resist.
I'm of two minds about resolutions. On the one hand, they used to be an important yearly ritual for me. On the other hand, I never actually lived up to them. This year I (mostly) let them go and haven't yet missed them.
That said, I think you can have the spirit of New Year's resolutions without making a list of very specific and very unattainable goals. There are times when I need to stop, look back at what I've done or what I am currently doing, think about what I wish I were doing now or look forward to what I hope to be doing in the future, and then make some choices and some plans. That sort of life evaluation doesn't have to come on January 1, but it's a handy reference point in our Gregorian world.
So, here begins my reflecting.
Last year my resolutions were as follows:
Let's just get those first and third points out of the way right here with a big hearty chuckle so we can move on. I honestly wasn't even going to bring up that third one but thought someone might call me on it at some point, so I'll admit here and now that I did absolutely nothing to achieve that goal. And, I don't care.
The first one was just wistful musing, the sort of optimism that comes over you in late December when you're considering the approach of January 1 but still enjoying the excesses of the holidays, that crystal-clear uplift of "Yes, I will stop eating sugar tomorrow!" as you stuff another chocolate truffle in your mouth.
But the middle one still stands. The idea of "taking responsibility" actually sounds really grim, but I didn't mean it so. I meant that I had control over what I got done, and that if I didn't accomplish something I could have worked on (like doing the splits!), that was my choice and not someone else's fault.
"In the past, I've excused myself from doing something I want to because no one else was doing it, or I've blamed someone else's lack of participation on why I couldn't follow through.
"... There have been parenting ideas and ideals that I've had that I've been half-hearted about. I haven't talked about it much, but I have a goal to raise Mikko bilingual in English and German (along with the sign language!). Since Sam speaks kein Wort Deutsch, he's understandably not been able to support me in that vision. I've let that corrode my own ambition to follow through, but that's my problem, and only I can resolve it."
As I mentioned, I didn't make New Year's resolutions this year. And somehow, in my mind, the only resolutions from last year that I remembered were the ones I didn't do, like the being perfect part (no junk food, keeping the place spic and span, maintaining an even keel emotionally, etc.) and the still-no-splits thing. What a trip, then, to look honestly and see that I actually did a pretty good job at the most important of all the resolutions — the one about taking responsibility.
Not that you care about the splits thing, but I am closer to doing the splits this year than last. My right forward split is relatively close to the ground. Bear with me as I explain the relevance to something more important. I took no specific time outside of ballet class to work on my splits, but I did go to class most every week, and we stretched in almost every class. Turns out, the more you practice something, the better you get at it. Yes, my very own oh-duh moment.
It doesn't matter if you don't practice it as frequently as you'd hoped. It doesn't matter if you've not yet achieved perfection. You can still look back at where you were and look at where you are now and see your progress.
In terms of parenting resolutions, this is where I am, not perfect but somewhere better along the journey.
• Take my example from last year where I was bemoaning the fact that I was not speaking enough German with Mikko. This is an ever-present temptation for me, to wimp out and speak (my native) English, but I can see that I speak much more German with him now than last year. He's been enrolled in his German preschool, and he answered me correctly when I asked him what color the number forty-four bus was, even though I don't remember having counted up to forty-four with him in German and we weren't in eyesight of the bus in question. I'm even composing some bilingual songs so that I'll have more of a repertoire to sing! (Yes, one's about riding the forty-four bus!)
• Doing more sign language with him is another one — he's a signing whiz now. I actually recently had a resolution, not tied to New Year's in particular, to continue signing with him now that he's becoming so verbal at two and a half. I'd like for him to retain all of this knowledge he's worked so hard to build, and perhaps let it blossom into full-fledged ASL learning.
• Another example of taking responsibility I'm pleased with is that, instead of just whining about how I don't have a tribe around me, I've actually taken a couple steps to create a community for us. Our first babysitting co-op meeting is upon us, and aside from that, our little threesome has made some new, Mikko-friendly contacts with both families and non-parents. (Don't worry — I won't let that stop me from whining. It's too much fun.)
• I've also been thinking again (constantly) about the idea of taking responsibility for my emotions. Having a toddler pushes me over the edge more times than I care to admit. Sometimes I take this out on Mikko, sometimes on Sam, sometimes on the cat, sometimes on inanimate objects. I would like to not take it out at all, if possible. I don't mean that in some unhealthy, holding-it-in sort of way. I mean, seriously, I would like to stop being so darn angry. To just chill, to let things be. No one else can do this for me, so I'm going to have to try.
• Along the same lines, I need to stop swearing already. It might seem from that last paragraph with my quaint "darn" that I'm an aw-shucks, gee-whilikers kind of girl. Sadly, I could teach a sailor a thing or two. And I have taught Mikko some interesting terms. Whoops. I don't actually care if he grows up to swear; I feel like that's his choice. It's too long a tangent to include in this paragraph, but I was brought up to believe swearing was one of the worst things ever, and I really think it was an unhealthy fixation and something that distanced me from people. I wouldn't even read swear words in my head, and I judged anyone who used them, thereby missing the point of what they were saying. I had to grow up and out of that to let those words lose their power over me. That said, having my two-year-old swear at my mother when she visits this month: not cool. So I'm going to try to curb my tongue until Mikko's old enough to understand swearing, if that makes sense.
• My last resolution is half-practical and half-mental. Sam and I have been trading off childcare duties. And when I say "trading off," I mean mostly Sam's been taking Mikko so I could write.
But it's time for me to step up to the plate and really give this trading-off thing a go. When it's my turn, I need to seize it, take Mikko elsewhere if Sam needs his space, and just enjoy the time I have with my son. It's hard for me, I won't deny it. Playing trains with a toddler for hours is akin to sitting in a doctor's waiting room, only without a magazine to distract me. Here's how Mikko plays trains: "Hello, Thomas. How you? Hello, Puwsy [my take on his pronunciation of Percy]. How you? Go store?" Then they drive to the store (Mikko's leg), and I ask what they will buy. Every time, they buy monkeys and bananas. "Hello, Thomas. How you?" he says when they bring back their loot to the other trains. "Ride back?" Which, to the uninitiated, means one wants to ride on the other's back, as in, be hooked up like a train and tool around for a bit. Repeat. Same script every time. It's charming the first five times, death by Thomas the Tank Engine the next fifty. If I show a break in concentration, say to scratch my nose, he grabs my hand and pulls it back to a train. "No!" he reprimands. "Play choo-choo tracks!" (For some reason, this is what he calls "trains" now.)
So it's dull, and cute, and boring, and adorable, and I want to focus on the good and let the bad just not bother me so much. There'll be time enough to work on posts and goof around on Twitter and run the laundry and write thank-you notes. I'm going to try to turn off my brain more often; acknowledge that playing, as shown in Playful Parenting, is how our children communicate with us, how they work through their own emotions and experiences, and how we show our love to them by speaking their language; and enter into the spirit of being a mother to a two-year-old.
Because, you know, it strikes me even now: He'll be turning three this year, so it doesn't last forever.
I've been thinking a lot recently about whether I'm a failure as a mother. I look at pictures of Mikko smiling and wonder if he's smiling because we told him to, or because it's a natural reflex for unjaded children to smile, or if it's because he's truthfully happy. If he could remember his toddler years, would he look back on this time with affection, or would he point out everything I've done wrong?
That was kind of a downer thought when I had it, but it served as a wake-up call. January or not, there are things in my parenting and my life that I need to change, and if not now, when? I realize that I can't make Mikko happy (since he's in control of his own emotions), but I can make the choices in my own parenting that are most likely to lead to his happiness.
Like playing choo-choo tracks. "Hello, Topham Hat!"
What are your parenting resolutions this year? If you don't believe in resolutions, in what way are you still looking back and looking forward and reevaluating?
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by noon EST Jan. 12 with all the carnival links. All the links below will be active by then.)
• It Is All About Empathy: Nurturing a Toddler's Compassion Potential — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries gives us a comprehensive post on how to help our children develop empathy. You can find Paige on Twitter at @babydust.
• Mindfully Loving My Children — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! has found that determining her children's love language is helping guide her in parenting compassionately. You can find Melodie on Twitter at @bfmom.
• January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Resolutions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama resolves (among other things) not to freak out if her toddler isn't sporting Thomas undies in 2010. You can find Dionna on Twitter at @CodeNameMama.
• Imperfect Mother — Sarah at Consider Eden looks back at the goals she had for herself last year to see how close she came to her ideal — and finds some unexpected accomplishments as well. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @ConsiderEden.
• FC Mom's Parenting Resolutions 2010 — Kristine at FC Mom is arguably the most ambitious among our group – she has resolutions in just about every area of her life! You can find Kristine on Twitter at @TheFCMom.
• What’s in a Resolution? — Chrystal at Happy Mothering is due soon with baby girl #2! Chrystal resolves to be as fully present for two daughters as she was when she had only one. You can find Chrystal on Twitter at @HappyMothering.
• Natural Parenting Resolutions — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog has found a simple way to take a break before reacting emotionally to a tense situation. You can find Mrs. Green on Twitter at @myzerowaste.
• My parenting resolutions — Mamamilkers at Musings of a Milk Maker has found a parenting class and a counselor to help her five-year-old work through her anxiety issues. You can find Mamamilkers on Twitter at @mamamilkers.
• Talkin' 'bout My Resolutions — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing is committing herself in public to cloth diapering, baby signs, bedtimes, and book reading.
• Parenting Resolutions — Sarah at One Starry Night is helping her older son heal from time away from her and keeping her newest addition happy while recovering from a challenging pregnancy and birth. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @starrymom.
• I need to slow down, smell those roses AND the poopy diapers — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma wants to slow down to smell the roses and the poopy diapers. You can find Joni Rae on Twitter at @kitchenwitch.