As we embrace a new year, most of us think of all the things we want to change or improve in our lives. We review and scrutinize all of the previous year's mistakes and shortcomings, sometimes embarrassed or pretending they didn't even happen and trying to see them from our own perspective, rather than what is reality.
Nevertheless, it's a time where almost all of us revisit, review and a lot of the times, criticize the choices we've made, where we have been, or maybe where we have not yet traveled. This can be both a constructive and demeaning ritual that we find ourselves practicing each year.
For a mother, we find ourselves saying, I wish I had more patience. Why do I lose my temper so often? I wish I would have spent more time with the children. Why didn't I follow through with the plans and trips I had for our family? I wish I wouldn't have said "no" so often and tried to listen a little more closely. Why have I not set a better example for my children in practicing what I preach?
I wish, I wish, I wish. Why, why, why? We can keep beating ourselves up with these same questions, as we play them over again in our heads or simply just try to block it out and convince ourselves that we rock and we're the best mothers ever and make no mistakes. But the truth of the matter is, it doesn't change any of it. Our past is nothing more than a story. Once we fully realize this, it loses its power over us. Accept it, learn from it and move on. Trust me, it will be the best thing for both you and your children. There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
I thought it would be fitting to compile a list of 12 aspirations to try and aim for in 2014. If you are anything like me, for some of these, or maybe even all of them, you may fail, possibly several times, but pray that you come out of it a better parent. One awesome side note that we each have on our side, is that every day is a chance for us to start again. There are just days we choose to give up and choose to believe it's a bad DAY versus some bad moments. Instead, we need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try again.
After all, this is a new year. A new start. Endless possibilities.
1. Forgive yourself, forgive your children of their mistakes, forgive your partner of their mistakes and after examining them and making peace, move on. We can't start the next chapter of our life while we keep rereading the last one.
2. Think twice before saying "no." The past cannot be changed, it simply must be accepted. So many of those no's easily could have been a yes.
3. Count to three. Take a deep breath and slowly count to three. Remember, patience is a virtue. I'm so grateful for the saying that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Thank you God. There is still hope for me.
4. Remember actions speak louder than words. Be the example for this. Children will come to trust your words less and your actions more.
5. Let your kids know you are human. They need to know that Mommy isn't a superhero ... well, not all the time. Mommy makes mistakes.
Mommy messes up. Mommy does things and says things that she wishes she hadn't. BUT Mommy also learns from her mistakes. She tries harder next time. She doesn't give up. Mommy cries, she hurts and she has feelings, just like everybody else. It's important for your children to know this. So reveal to them this side of Mommy.
6. Let loose and be a kid with your kid, every once in a while. You may have more fun than you think.
7. When the dishes are stacked, the laundry is piled and dinner needs to be cooked, I understand that they can't wait forever. There are times I think it's a wise decision that they temporarily take a backseat, depending upon the day and the attention your children need, but why not include them? Even if it's just for a couple of minutes, let them dry a dish, put a bowl away, help throw the clothes in the washer, or my kids' favorite, "push the button."
And all children love to help be the assistant chef. Most of all, they just want to feel important and feel included.
8. You can never have too many dance parties, or check on your children too many times throughout the night (no matter how old they are), or laugh too often, or love too hard. Let yourself overdo some of these things. Once the moment is gone, it's gone.
9. When you start your day off exhausted, unshowered (again), unorganized and feel like you're just going to crumble to pieces, take five minutes to pull yourself together.
Lock yourself in the bathroom, hide in the closet, stay an extra five minutes in the car (alone), but make the few minutes to yourself happen. Take some deep breaths, regroup, and if you're like me, and think to yourself that you're already running late for work and don't have those extra 5 minutes, then make sure to take them as quickly as you can, when later in the morning allows. It's amazing all you can get accomplished in 5 minutes after having a baby!
10. Each one of us has something in our life that keeps us going, that keeps us looking forward to another day. Remember who your "somethings" are. Tell them that. Then repeat again and again.
11. Say "I love you" until you think you've worn it out. A child never can be told you love them too often. But don't forget, not only tell them this, but show them this. Reread No. 4 and realize how critical it is that these go hand-in-hand.
12. Be good to yourself. Love yourself enough to take a small amount of time out of EACH day to breathe, to just 'be'. Trust me, you deserve it more than you think. And you know what, you just may be a better parent for it tomorrow.
Look at this year is a blank book. You have 365 clean pages to fill up. So write a good one.
Long is a local author and mother of three.
Her column is published on the third Sunday of each month.
She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.