Happy 2010! Did you guys have a great holiday season? Is it shaping up to be a fabulous winter? Are you carefully honing your list of New Year's resolutions? I used to do that. I love a good list. Every year, I would craft a carefully thought-out manifesto enumerating all of the ways I had fallen short during the previous portion of my life, and then detail, with numbers, subheads and bullet points, the ways in which I would be totally awesome in the coming year. And I would dedicate myself to living up to the manifesto for at least a week. Sometimes two. And once, a whole month! But then, for the rest of the year, I would be my old slack self, only occasionally remembering my resolutions, just long enough to feel like a loser for not living up to my own exacting standards for another year.
Everything changed in 1999. I was attending a holiday party, and the talk turned to resolutions. One of the partygoers was local artist Jennifer Yane, whom many Richmonders know as the "Button Lady." Jennifer and her buttons have been a local fixture since the 1980s, and she's always been an inspiration to me. On this night, though, she took it one step further. She answered the resolution question slowly and thoughtfully, with a sly, mischievous smile. And, without realizing it, she gave me a permanent New Year's resolution that I have used — successfully — every year since. "Let's see," Jennifer said. Then she held up her fingers, counting off resolutions as she went. "Have fun, stay loose, be cool, hang out and say ‘so what' a lot."
I reached for a pen and scribbled it on a cocktail napkin. The perfect resolution! It was so simple, and yet it covered so many situations. I had a good half-dozen years before The Boy came along to get it down to a science. And let me tell you — I thought this was a fantastic resolution before I had a kid, but it is an absolute lifesaver for parents. It's more than a resolution; it's a way of life.
Have Fun: You would think that this would go without saying, but boy, have I met some parents who aren't having any fun. And note that this doesn't say that your kid should have fun, or that you should provide fun or be fun or, God forbid, carefully schedule some fun. No. It's simple. Have. Fun. You, yourself. Laugh. A lot, in front of your kid. At yourself sometimes. Eat treats without moaning about how you shouldn't. Live a little.
Stay Loose: Put down the day planner. Cancel the playgroup. No, Wednesday does not always have to be taco night. Play it by ear for a change. Yeah, structure is nice, but so is flexibility. Back in my playgroup days, there were some Tuesday mornings when The Boy didn't feel sociable. There were definitely Tuesdays when I didn't. So we didn't go. Because we stay loose. And you know what? Playgroup carried on without us. The world did not stop spinning. Everyone survived.
Be Cool: I don't mean Chet Baker cool; I mean cucumber cool. Don't freak out over the little stuff. Don't freak out over the big stuff. Don't freak out at all if you can help it. Easier said than done, I know. I definitely have my non-cucumber moments. I also know that when I do, The Boy tunes right in to my freaked-out vibe and is a mess until I calm down. So I try to be cool and save us all the misery.
Hang Out: Where are you rushing off to? Sit down, take a load off. And I don't mean sit down and talk on the phone while your kid watches Sesame Street, or sit down and fold laundry while your kid interacts with a talking plastic toy. Sit down and hang out. Read a couple of books, make some Play-Doh snakes, tell stupid riddles. Or do nothing. Just sit. Together. Whenever you get the chance.
Say "so what" a lot: This is the one that I've perfected. No bath before the visit to Grandma's? So what. You're at the mall, and he's in the mood to get his picture taken with Santa, but he's wearing hand-me-down dungarees instead of the adorable velvet suit you bought just for pictures? So what. He doesn't want to eat anything but cold cereal for dinner? So. What. If it's not a big deal, don't make it a big deal. And if you have to ask yourself if it's a big deal, it's not.
You're welcome to share my resolutions, whether you have kids or not. I hope that even if you don't want to use them, you at least enjoyed reading them. And if you didn't?
Happy New Year.