Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places


Parental advice

New Year Resolutions 2013

We all know the drill. Or at least, I do. I make these stupendous new year’s resolutions the week before the clock chimes 12 on the 31st, and I’m struggling to even remember what it is I promised myself to do by mid February. Ish.

The idealism sets in around Christmas time when you’re in the warm embrace of Michael Bublé crooning that he’ll be home for Christmas, peaks when it’s an hour before midnight on New Year’s Eve and you’re almost feverish with a burning desire to get your 26″ waistline back next year WITHOUT RESORTING TO SAUSAGE-STUFFING SHAPEWEAR… and then grows sorta desperate when you’ve entered the first week of January and you haven’t finalised your list.

Or that’s me, anyway.

Tony regards New Year Resolutions with a bit of an eyeroll and a yawn. I am much more starry-eyed about it. There’s something about (thirty) second chances that I’m an absolute sucker for. Something about the lifelong desire for personal improvement. Something about a clean slate, a fresh canvas, and innocence reborn.

In terms of resolution-making, I’ve tried a variety of forms and tactics.

I’ve done the vanilla Listing Method, where you go “1. Go to the gym more regularly. 2. Take up baking.”

I’ve done the General Zen Self Improvement ones, like “Listen more. Do less. Eat healthy. Champion underdogs. Seek purity.”

I’ve made long lists. I’ve made short, manageable ones. One year, I made just one resolution for the whole year, which I half kept because I went to the gym twice a week for half a year before the irony of getting takeaway dinners after gym classes set in and stuck. I even made a New Year’s Theme, which isn’t so much a resolution as a mantra or motto one keeps for the year ahead. Mei Ann, who first put the idea in my head, had chosen something like Carpe Diem. I went with Cool Bananas – something I had my work team chant to me whenever I found myself near losing my stack because of idiocy.

I’ve read the articles that bang on about why New Resolutions Don’t Work. Hasn’t fazed me yet. Because ultimately, I’m an idealist. And I love lists. And I love new beginnings. And I never want to stop trying.

So here’s to trying.

Velle’s New Year Resolutions 2013

The following list is more “thematic”, ala the Cool Bananas of 2008 (see above). It’s the 3 rules I want to remember for the year, because I want to be able to apply them to situations I encounter frequently.

Be my own mum

I find myself comparing our family to everyone else’s constantly. A part of it is benchmarking, but most of it is due to insecurity. I’ve always been competitive, but since I became a mother, the competitive streak has grown a mile wide, taken over my cerebral cortex, and now mentally karate-chops every other kid and mother I encounter whose way of living differs to mine. It is a horrible disease.

It also swings the other way. I question my parenting constantly. I know it’s healthy to evaluate what we’re doing as parents, and to seek God and others to plug the holes. But my gut is telling me that I veer towards grabbing a whole bunch of “parent molds” in an effort to stuff our little family in them.

Fact: I am a new parent. But I’ve also been me a lot longer than I’ve been a parent. So I should probably stick to what I know best.

Fact: Arddun is a little individual with a growing personality that is All Hers. She will struggle with certain temptations, and yet sail through others. Comparing her to other kids who are better/less behaved in any given scenario just isn’t fair to her OR to me.

Fact: There will always be other parents (and non-parents!) who will judge me, Arddun, and Tony. They will do the comparisons, they will whisper behind our backs, they may approve or disapprove. I cannot change any of that, but lugging my family along to appease someone else’s Golden Standard is both impractical and ridiculous.

We need to set our own bars according to the gifts, character traits and resources made available to us.

I need to stop trying to grow the perfect kid on the off-chance that someone might award me a gold star for good parenting. Even if that gold star comes from the people I love and whose good opinion I desire greatly.

And I need to grow thicker skin.

Live in the moment

How many times have I been “playing” with Arddun while mentally listing things I “ought to” be doing at that moment? How many times have I depended on her to play quietly while I rushed around with housework and tomorrow’s worries and tonight’s writing assignment? How many times has Tony talked to me about something important to him while my mind has drifted on to Saturday’s church potluck?

This resolution isn’t about turning into a helicopter parent and filling Arddun’s every waking moment with All of My Quality Time. But it is about being wholly present in each moment – heart, body, soul. I am so much more distracted and distractible now as a parent than I’ve ever been. My mind is like dandelion sometimes- 18,000 different directions as soon as the wind picks up, even though the body is present and still.

I want to remember that I’m not a child-minder – I’m a parent. And I’m not a housemate – I’m a wife. It’s time to live each moment more purposefully and give the people in them the respect they deserve.

It’s time to get grounded.

The glass is half full

I used to be such an optimist. It came with the territory of being a ditzy arts student, seemingly unencumbered by something as weighty as facts and realism. I am, of course, being slightly facetious when I say this. But that’s my problem right there.

I don’t know how I’ve allowed this part of me to change, but I think I’ve lost this optimism. This ability to look at the world Sunny Side Up. This quickness to give others the benefit of the doubt. This courage to emote daringly. To look for the laugh. To brave the weather with a smile and some sass. To walk in and add sunshine to a room.

I’ve blamed lots of things over the years. A church that has traditionally frowned upon emotions as something of an inferior worship to an intellectual discourse on God our Father. Hurtful accusations of leading with my heart and being emotional, as if this part of my femininity is something weak to be suppressed or cured from. An emphasis overall on analytical skills over instinct, on quantitative over qualitative. Pessimism couched as realism. Optimism couched as the product of a fanciful, childish mind.

But the truth is, I’ve allowed myself to become cynical. And cynicism comes from a hardness of the heart.

And so here’s to softening it again, and to considering others as better than myself. Here’s to living joyfully, to embracing my Inner Dork, and to charging ahead like a child who knows she’s safe because her Father’s always watching.


Velle’s 2013 Goals

This bit reads like a linear list of New Year’s resolutions. But as they say with project management and strategy, the trick is to make things bite-sized and specific.

  • Monday Meditation
    Pray for half an hour on Mondays
  • Weekday Devo
    Read a short devotional on my iPhone on weekdays
  • Write , Write, Write
    Blog twice a week, write 4 magazine articles, write and finish a novella. This is probably the most difficult to achieve, I think.
  • Attend 80% of Writer’s Club meetings
    I’d stopped attending my writer’s club since I was pregnant with Arddun. Time to get back on the horse, get inspired, and work those muscles.
  • Read 10 books
    Have been talking about starting a book club for AGES. Finally time to get off my backside and make it happen.

What are your New Year Resolutions? Care to share?

Morning clarity

So this has been my morning.

After receiving some discouragement about my mothering methods last night, I spent the greater part of this morning battling with Arddun during breakfast when usually, it’s our favourite time of the day together. And then she got down from her highchair, crawled for a bit, slipped while getting up to stand, fell, hit her face and got a nosebleed.

Yes. My baby got blood.

And so I’m sitting here feeling frustrated, relieved, and annoyed in equal measure. Relieved that her nosebleed turned out to be nothing serious, frustrated that the morning wasn’t handled as well as I’d hoped, and annoyed that I had allowed some well-intentioned advice to get in the way of my momfidence.

Like all other parenting books and theory, I have a love-hate relationship with the Growing Kids God’s Way series – mostly because I’m suspicious of anything that tries to reduce the art of parenting into a paltry science. I’m particularly torn about the GKGW series because of its clever branding – I mean, as a Christian, how does one feel good about NOT growing a kid “God’s way”? And yet, I have enough marketing savvy to know that the GKGW series doesn’t have the monopoly on godly parenting any more than Woolies has the monopoly on fresh food. And yet, like a sucker, I wonder anyway.

I’m mostly annoyed with myself because I lack major mommy mojo. I’m so completely new at this still, that I can feel myself clutching at most advice and pitching one against the other in epic court battles conducted only in my brain, so I emerge resentful and unsure of my instincts. This morning’s breakfast skirmish had all to do with how Arddun communicates that she’s done with a particular food item – in that she tends to clear her tray table by dropping what she’s had enough of outside of her tray. Messy? Yes. But she’s communicating and at this stage, I’m more interested in nurturing a healthy attitude towards food and self-feeding than I am about this particular table manner. Other manners and social expectations are being taught at the moment. The dropping of food is not our current priority, and has never bothered me.

Until it was brought up as an absolute no-no by another mother.

On hindsight, I wonder why I felt compelled this morning to rid Arddun of this seemingly appalling habit of communicating her preferences just because another mother said I should. As it is, we teach very different feeding habits to our babies – she spoon-feeds her baby completely until nigh age, while Arddun has been feeding herself since 5.5 months. And both of us are going to reach a stage of change over – where she will have to teach her baby to feed herself, while I will have to teach Arddun to keep food in her bowl or on her tray. In the calm of the morning, I can see this. But last night, I went home doubting everything I’d been doing since day dot – all because I had been in the company of women who chose to feed their children differently.

Anyhoo… I still haven’t decided if it’s time for a change with Arddun’s feeding habits. And don’t get me wrong – like all parenting books and theories, GKGW has some fabulous tips and tricks which I fully intend to tap into. But it isn’t parenting gospel, despite its catchy brand. And parenting is an art, and not a science. And I’m going to stop blogging so I can hug my child, kiss her sore nose, and then let her have some quiet time in her play pen. Without a kitchen timer telling us when to stop.

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