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Three key family resolutions

Like most of us, I tossed around some big ideas this month about how 2015 would be different than 2014: more productive, healthier, more exciting,better.

Of course, by Jan. 2, I was already back to doing exactly the same things I always do: procrastinating, eating salted caramel gelato straight out of the container, going to work, coming home, catching a cold. So exciting.

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I've never been good at resolutions. Having three small kids makes resolution-keeping even harder.

But if I was inclined to make resolutions, they would likely be these three:

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Try not to yell so much: I tend to be pretty patient with my twin 4-year-old sons and nearly 3-year-old daughter. But when I have said, "Please go find your shoes," or "Come here. Come here. Come HERE" six or nine times, I don't intend to do it, but I do raise my voice. I always dreamed I would be that mother whose adult children wrote in their memoirs, "Mother never was cross, never said a harsh word to us. She was patience and light and honeysuckle all the days of her life." But Sharpie markings on the lemon-yellow sofa change things. Now I'm yelling. And then I feel bad, and they feel bad, and I have to squat to eye level and apologize to the crying or moping child, and suddenly the focus is no longer on the kids learning to do what I say when I say it, or not do something they shouldn't do. Now it's all about Mommy's bad behavior and children's hurt feelings. So yelling, I'm learning, is bad for the reasons that we all know, and practically speaking, it really isn't worth the effort. So I'm going to do better.

Put away the iPhone: I have the kind of job where I need to check email periodically when not at work. But I can't even blame my slavishness to my device on work. I admit it. I read Facebook posts while cooking dinner. I scan news stories and blog posts during the kids' bath time. I envy people on Instagram when I should be playing Legos. I don't do it all the time, but I do it enough — too much. I know I need to have downtime. And an occasional swipe of the touch screen never hurt nobody. But in the past few weeks, my daughter has switched from calling me "Mommy" or "Mama" and now says, "Mom," like a teenager. She's in a full-fledged big-girl bed. The boys have started expressing interest in "Star Wars" (what happened to Daniel Tiger?) and the Hulk. My oldest told me this week with a sigh, "I haven't gotten a girlfriend yet." They won't be small for much longer. I won't have them around my dinner table or sloshing tub water on my bathroom floor forever. I really do resolve to be more present with them while they're still my littles.

Parent "the kids" less, and each child more: Having three children under age 5 is incredibly fulfilling. It's also really hard. One shortcut that makes the adults' lives easier is that the group rules. Most of our decisions are made "for the kids," and not enough, I think, for each of them, one at a time, considering their individual needs and personalities. One kid needs more Mommy time, but the clock says "Group Bedtime"? Usually, we go with the group. Two kids want to do a puzzle, but the other is begging for a story? One meltdown is better than two; puzzle it is. But as they grow, I see how they are clamoring to be really seen — and individually known. This one craves affection, that one more alone time. This one hates to be the center of attention, that one is destined to be class clown. I will take the time to give each child more of what he or she needs. This will take time and not inconsiderable effort. But I think it will pay off in the long term.

So when they write their memoirs as adults, they will say, "Mom yelled (sometimes). She didn't exercise a whit, and could Facebook with the best of 'em. But she knew me. She loved me. Not just in January, but every month of every year, all the days of her life."

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Tanika Davis is a former Baltimore Sun reporter who now works as director at a communications firm. She and her husband have twin 4-year-old sons, a 2 1/2-year-old daughter, a perpetually messy house and rapidly appearing gray hairs. She also needs a nap.

Her column appears monthly.

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