This Christmas, all of my cousins bought our grandparents Skylight frames. It’s a digital frame with an app that allows people to add photos and video directly. I sent four years’ worth of kids pictures to each of their great-grandparents and Lolo and Lola.
It gave me a chance to go through my phone and sort all of these photos of the girls. Reflecting back on everything we did with them when they were little, and now as school kids, the highlight reel really is heartwarming. That doesn’t mean that our day-to-day is any less challenging or that burnout isn’t perpetually looming on the horizon.
I did accomplish what I said I would do last year: to be more selective with my time and attention. I said no to more things and didn’t overschedule or overcommit. But that’s not just what it’s all about.
In a recent news article about Yale’s viral course on Happiness, it’s not about being time-rich. It’s about actually having fun. While we can spend time recovering from work or winding down, relaxing things are simply just relaxing. They are NOT invigorating.
Full transparency: I signed up for the Yale “Science of Well-Being” course on Coursera right after I finished listening to this article.
So now that we have this context, I’ll jump into my Resolutions.
Word of the Year: Intentional
I think (know) there is a tendency for families to get so wrapped up in the day-to-day that thinking big picture or making plans falls by the wayside. We are so geared into immediate needs, especially when our kids tend to have SO many of them. It’s like constantly juggling plates in the air. Then when you hear a friend say that their kid or their family are doing XYZ, you panic and start evaluating your life through the wrong lens.
So when I’m moving through our routine and making plans for Spring Break, or Summer or Kindergarten in the fall, I want to make my decisions INTENTIONALLY. That’s not “let’s wait and see” or “they’re gonna fail if we don’t”. Instead, it’s “what is best for my family” and “what do I value as a parent”.
After watching the first episode of The Parent Test with Mary, I started thinking about our best intentions as parents. Yes, this piggy-backs off of INTENTIONAL. We all have this idea of the type of parent we want to be. We want to subscribe to a certain philosophy, or have the most successful kids, or the most well-rounded kids. But the best intentions mean nothing if there is no follow-through. That’s the tricky part; actually following through on being a parent when you have stress and tantrums and everything else.
Parenting is a daily practice. Not a homework assignment. This is literally talking the talk and walking the walk. Don’t wait until your kid reaches a certain age or when work lightens up to start creating experiences and connecting.
In short, I don’t want to constantly worry about how my kids are going to turn out 18 years in the future. I just want to teach my kid how to swim, or bring them on a hike, or take them to the beach now. There has to be room in the schedule to actually have fun with your kids while they are still kids.
I think whenever we feel stress about parenting, we default blame the “competition”; the romanticized version of people’s family lives and our seemingly crazy need to keep up.
This past year, I adopted a very blunt, harsh motto about this parenting pressure: Nobody really f’n cares…
How other people parent and personally manage their families has absolutely NOTHING to do with me.
I can promise you that how I parent and what my kids do day-to-day does not keep anyone up at night. Similarly, I’m not scrolling and stalking any one of my parent friends like “what are their kids doing right now???”.
There is absolutely no need to pit parents, parenting styles, or our kids against each other. As long as your family is happy and safe, you’re doing something right.
Are You Happy?
Every week or so, I ask Troy if he’s happy. Even though the girls can be a lot, and work can be a lot; are you still happy? We use these as periodic check-ins for both our family and our marriage, keeping communication and making sure we are on the same page.
The first part of the Science of Well-Being course is to take a few quizzes to determine your character strengths. These strengths not only tell you what you could work on, but also what drives your happiness. My results reinforced that my character strengths are the love in my marriage/relationships, finding meaning, and accomplishments. The drivers for that happiness are learning new things, curiosity for new experiences, and being creative.
Knowing this is how I operate, I can lean into doing more of these things throughout the year. Like I said before, doing things that don’t just use up time, but things that are actually invigorating and meaningful. Things that make us genuinely happy.
Not to knock self-care; we definitely need recovery time from how crazy our days are. But doing a face mask every other night is probably not going to get you fulfilling happiness.
So check in with yourself, your partner, your kids and ask them if they are happy.
Yes, I went to a different place with these resolutions and they all very much work together:
Create an intention. Follow through with it, despite what anyone else thinks. Be happy that you accomplished it and do it all over again.
This might be just a shift in mindset or a resolution to be more active versus passive, but I could do with a little bit more fun in my life.
Happy New Year!