Last week at back-to-school night my husband greeted a friend with “happy new year!” we all laughed, but I felt a little stunned too. Sometimes my husband and I are so much on the same wavelength it’s uncanny.
You see, although I never discussed this with him, in the last couple of weeks as we bought the girls new lunchboxes and school supplies, reminisced about the last days of summer camp, entered all of the school holidays in the family calendar, I’ve been feeling that we’re on the verge of a new year.
January 1, the calendar new year that comes just days after the big build-up of Christmas, is a faux new year. The day before is the same as the day after. On January 2nd it’s back to work and school. A massive celebration for some, and the next morning you wake with a hangover but the world, your life, are still the same. For parents of school children, September 6, or August 31, or even August 16 in our case, is a brand new year.
When the school year starts, everything changes! In our neighborhood, which goes dormant during the summer, you one morning hear a steady hum of traffic from 7:45 to 8:15a.m. as parents drive their children to one of four schools nearby. The tall maple trees in our front yard seem aware of the academic transition and have begun dropping crisp brown leaves – even though the weather remains unchanged. I go through my daughter’s drawers, bagging the now too short shorts and tank tops to be donated and replacing them with jeans and long-sleeved shirts from the hand-me-down boxes stacked in their closet.
And for me, with every new year come hopes, dreams, and resolutions of how to make it even better than the last. This year my resolutions are many:
Spend more quality time with my teenager. She’s a junior in high school and I’m suddenly acutely aware that in two years she’ll no longer be living in my home. I’ve let the demands of my work (back on the computer when the little girls to go bed) and her adolescent self-distancing allow us to fall into a routine of spending the evening in different rooms until we call out “goodnight” and head to bed. She’s been asking me for months to enroll us again in a yoga class. At a minimum I have to leap at this opportunity to do something together.
Experiment with family friendly vegetarian recipes. As I become more aware of the impact of meat production on our earth and the potential health hazards, it seems imperative that our family move toward a more responsible diet. (If any of this is news to you, check out this, this, and this.) It won’t be easy—I grew up in Eugene, Oregon in the 1970s with parents who eagerly embraced Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet (Garbanzo-Pineapple Loaf anyone?) and my children turn up their noses at tofu—but I think with a good sense of adventure, a good cookbook in hand, and the promise of dessert we can do it.
Let the little girls have more playdates. My younger girls are extraordinarily social, a characteristic they must have inherited from their father. While I prefer to hole up on weekends, watching cooking TV or reading a book, they beg me for playdates. I have a million excuses not to arrange them — we have household chores to do! we have a soccer game this afternoon! you played with your friends all week! My refusal to put out the extra effort to let them have friends over (because it is not without effort on my part) makes me sort of a Scrooge mommy. Not this year!
Take the little girls to the park more often. See above.
Set my iPhone aside. My children, all of them, have said to me enough times “you’re always looking at your phone” for me to get the message. I’m always looking at my phone! Whether it’s checking work email because I feel guilty for not working constantly or making a move on Words with Friends or reading one of the 141 (no kidding!) blogs I follow, my iPhone has become a major intrusion to family time. I recently read a profile of a female senior executive and remember nothing about her – including who she was – except that she left her cell phone in her car until 8pm so she would have no phone call interruptions during dinnertime with her family. I’m going to start a practice of setting my phone on my nightstand when I walk in the door from work. Those blog posts will be waiting for me later when I crawl into bed!
Undoubtedly there are so many more resolutions I could make. So many more improvements to be made. But let’s be realistic. It’s going to take a lot of discipline and, frankly, memory to stick to those I listed above. Plus, I wouldn’t be setting the best example for my children if I were the perfect mother, would I?
A new school year is exhilarating and I’m looking forward to all the chaos and complication it brings.
Happy new year!