Friday, January 18, 2013

Small Change

1328012A Guest Post by Lynn Shattuck, writer and mother of two
January. The jewel-toned lights of the holidays disappear. It is cold and dark, and perhaps a twinge of post-holiday letdown lingers in your body. It makes sense that the shiny promise of a brand new year full of hope and possibility would be a welcome beacon.

I am always tempted to make grand resolutions: no TV ever for the kids! Workout so much that I retrieve the body I had when I was 14! Keep the house spotless!

I’ve found that making such big promises sets me up for failure. However, I love the idea of looking back and reflecting on the year that just passed. What worked? What didn’t? What do I want to do differently?

My reflections this year led me to realize a few important things. First, I struggle mightily with consistency. I can keep the house in order for a few days, but before long, toys seep into every corner of the house. Stray laundry lurks in each room. Or, I wean my son off of TV during mealtimes (eek!) for a week, and then he throws an Exorcist-style tantrum and I give in and he is watching Angelina Ballerina on the couch with a cereal bar in his hand.

I know my kids need consistency. I also know that if I take on too many changes at once, I will burn out and stop doing everything. So I’m focusing instead on small daily tasks to create a more peaceful existence: deal with the incoming mail every day. Take the trash out as soon as it is full. Do the dishes at the end of the day. Put the laundry away when it’s done. In short, the mundane tasks of life which have to be done every day for the rest of our lives. I fight it, and I resent it. And yet, when I take these small, consistent actions….it feels good.

The other piece I’ve realized is just as challenging, but a bit more fun. When I had kids, I stopped doing the things that I enjoyed. Not because I wanted to be a martyr, or because I thought it was good for my kids to see a zombie mom with all the joy sucked out of her heart. It’s because of time. There are always a zillion things that I could be doing when I have a free moment; many are those same things that I struggle to be consistent about. Sort the mail. Attempt to match up the 85 tiny pairs of socks that seem to slither about the house like baby rattlesnakes. When I have a free moment, I have become loathe to do something fun for myself.

Sometimes I can barely even remember what I enjoy doing. The quickest way to rediscover it is to think about what I enjoyed doing as a child. Reading, writing, listening to music. Being outside under the trees. Watching movies. These are still my favorite things. In 2013, I’m going to do more of them. It might mean leaving the kids with babysitters or grandparents more often. It might even mean a little less precious sleep. But fun is worth it.

How do you want to fill all those empty, white calendar squares of 2013? What do you want to do differently this year, big or small?