This January, after moving in December and having a baby three days later, I made only one New Year’s resolution: To stop eating food dropped on the floor. If “no floor food” seems pathetically easy, it’s been a harder resolution to keep than you might think. My kids, ages 8, 5, 2 and 8 months, constantly drop their food. Some are lazy eaters. One lacks the fine motor skills necessary to hold Cheerios. Whatever the reason, most of the food in our house ends up on the ground. And I, generations removed from the Great Depression but somehow totally unable to waste a morsel, am a walking garbage disposal. It doesn’t matter if it’s a burned piece of broccoli smeared in ketchup, topped with a dried macaroni noodle. It’s going in my mouth. Until now, that is.
I still eat many meals standing up, anticipating demands for another glass of milk, the pink spoon, not-the-pink spoon. But at least my food hasn’t shared space with the pitter-patter of little feet. I feel pretty good about that. So good, in fact, that I’ve decided to make real resolutions for this school year. Now that my baby sleeps through the night, and I feel somewhat human again, we’ve got some housecleaning to do, some corrections to the corn-dog-eating, video-game-playing free-for-all that was summer break. I’ve come up with a list of ideas, which I’ll get to in a minute.
But first, let me introduce myself. I’m a longtime journalist, and a mother to the four aforementioned food droppers. A few years ago, I wrote the book “Happy Homemaking” (Cedar Fort, $16.99) with my co-worker Natalie Hollingshead. We are both mothers of young children, trying to establish a balance between work and family. Our idea was to interview experts about saving time and money at home. During the process, we discovered that although we both love a clean house and homemade brownies, the most interesting things about our homes were the people who lived there.
There’s nothing like the great, mad joy of parenting, and Natalie and I are both looking for ways to do it better. We’ll take turns writing this weekly column, exploring issues facing Utah County parents. We’ll look at everything from how many extracurricular activities are too many, to ways to effectively implement household chores, to how to talk to your children about the dangers of pornography. We’re hoping for a lot of input from readers. Because if there’s one parenting truth, it’s that every mom occasionally feels like she’s screwing it up. All you can give is your best effort and, at the end of the day, resolve to do better tomorrow. With that in mind, here are my School Year’s Resolutions:
1. To put schoolwork ahead of extracurricular activities
I love athletics because they emphasize fitness and teamwork. But I’m not fooling myself: I doubt there are any future NBA players at my dinner table. So schoolwork comes before basketball practice, period.
2. To get to know my children’s teachers
I’ll volunteer in the classroom, organize take-home reading, send slightly burned baked goods to the PTA bake sale, anything to show that I’m invested in my children’s education. I want their teachers to know how much I value their contribution to our lives.
3. To get organized the night before
I will read the take-home flyers, so help me, so that I can stop being That Mom who sends her kid with uncombed hair and a weird outfit on picture day. I’ll make lunches and help select clothing the night before, so that our mornings can run more smoothly.
4. To put away the blinkety-blink technology
Between chores, homework, soccer practice and church activities, there shouldn’t be time or a need to play videogames or watch much TV. I’ll forget passwords, lose the remote and unhook the cable, whatever it takes to disconnect my children from technology.
5. To put away my blinkety-blink phone
On that same note, I resolve to put away my smartphone and focus on my kids. Facebook, Pinterest and People.com can all wait — my kids shouldn’t have to.
6. To teach my children manners
I don’t care about what spoon goes where and which fingers hold the teacup. With three boys, I’m still working on keeping blood off the nice furniture. What’s important to me is that my children show respect for others — deference to adults, and kindness to their peers.
7. To be more fun
I resolve to be more spontaneous, to make ordinary days special with impromptu, made-up celebrations: Fort Day, anyone? I resolve to have monthly, individual dates with my children.
8. To make family time sacrosanct
I resolve to fanatically uphold our weekly family nights. I also resolve to sit down together for dinner, where I will serve healthy, made-from scratch meals. Except when I just can’t, and then I’ll heat up a frozen pizza and feel OK about it. Either way, we’ll be together. We’ll spill chocolate milk and drop lots of food on the floor. And should I forget my New Year’s resolution and accidentally eat some of it, that’s OK too. I’ve got tomorrow to be better.