Controversundays are traditionally on a parenting-related theme, although, now I come to think of it, that isn't specified. In any case, my main resolution this year not only does not involve my children, they are likely to be the biggest hindrance to its successful implementation. What I want to do is go all Flylady and get the house fully sorted, decluttered, and organised, reaching the point where I actually have a place for everything and am at least reasonably successful at keeping everything in its place. See the problem? Children not only make it extremely difficult to get any tidying done, they are more effective clutter-generators than just about anything else short of an obsessive hoarding disorder.
However. I am under no illusion that I will actually achieve this goal as stated, but I plan to do what I can towards it, and, hopefully, I may even be able to instill decluttering ideals into the kids as they grow up. I have, in fact, already started to do this. A few weeks before their birthdays, driven to near-despair by their sheer number of accumulated toys, I explained to the two of them that we would have to take some of the old toys to the charity shop to make room for the new toys they'd be getting for their birthdays.
"OK," Jamie agreed equably, and rushed off down the hall to announce the plan to Barry (he apparently sees one of his roles in life as being a go-between to announce the plans of one parent to the other. On occasion he will do this even when the other parent in question is present in the same room.) "Daddy? We have to take some of the old toys to the charity shop to make room for the new ones we're going to get for our birthdays! What toys can we take?"
"Well," Barry suggested, "how about the box of teddy bears?"
"Though Katie might want to keep some of them!" I called down the hall. "Better just check with her in case there are any that she still wants."
"KATIE!" Jamie yelled, hurtling back down the hall towards us in full-throttle enthusiasm mode. "DO YOU EVER WANT TO PLAY WITH ANY MORE TEDDY BEARS EVER AGAIN?"
I hastily intervened to try to paint a slightly less bleak picture of what was involved in decluttering, and, some days later, we all sat down with one of the many boxes in the living room and a bag for the Red Cross shop and started going through to see if there were any toys that both children could agree could go to the charity shop. To my surprise, we managed to find half a bag's worth, although the kids still insisted on keeping quite a lot of stuff I felt convinced they weren't actually going to play with again. I say 'the kids', but the problem was, of course, that a lot of the time one child would feel happy to dispense with a particular item but the other child would vote to keep it, and in the absence of an unanimous vote for dispension I didn't feel able to get rid of an item. Most of the 'no' votes came from Katie, who, in all fairness, is now growing into a lot of the stuff Jamie's growing out of, but who I believe has also been unfortunate enough to inherit my inability to picture a future of doing without a particular item. However, we have made a start. Meanwhile, I plan to try the old trick of finding a spare corner in the garage or wherever to store some of the excess stuff as a waystation to getting rid of it with a clear conscience if they do indeed never notice that it's gone.
I digress from the general topic of resolutions, though, as it happens, in so doing I am nicely fulfilling my other resolution – to blog more about the children. I have, over the past year, been dreadfully remiss in recording all those little cute anecdotes that are such fun to read about in years hence, and it's time I rectified that. The problem, as always, is my perfectionism – getting all the stories arranged into coherent posts with proper structure and endings and funny titles, while not missing anything I should include, always ends up being far too big a project for me to wrap my head around. So, I need to stop my entirely unsuccessful attempts to do this, and, instead, figure out an achievable way to do the job.
Here's my plan: Every day, I'll try to record one funny/cute/interesting story about each child. That's it. No feeling like I have to collect every story from the past month into one long post, no trying to work it into a theme, just recording what happened. I won't be religious about it – there will be (plenty of) days when I'm just too tired or have too much on, and I'll cut myself some slack. But, when I have time, I'm going to aim to write down something funny about each child from the past few days. If I can't think of any current Cute Stories, I'll pull one from the mental archives – the vast number of unrecorded Cute Moments.
To smooth my path still further, I'll have one all-purpose title that I can use any time that no obvious title choice presents itself, and thus I won't even have to struggle to come up with titles. (For clarification, I am editing this to add that I'll still use proper titles when one does spring easily to mind; this is just meant to save me trouble in times when one doesn't.) The all-purpose title in question will be Hello To The Strawberry, a line that Katie loved coming out with for a short period earlier this year and that had myself and Barry completely mystified – it sounded as though she was quoting something, but we know of no programme that contains this line. We never did figure out what it was all about, but I always thought it would be a great title for a blog post. Well, now it will hopefully be a great title for several dozen blog posts. In fact, I should probably make it a category.
OK. So those are my two resolutions – declutter the house, and blog about the children. On to the more general part of the topic – do New Year's resolutions even work?
For me, they do. This is entirely a horses-for-courses thing – some people do find it too demoralising to make resolutions and then not keep them throughout the year, and, if that's the way you feel, then, fair enough, New Year's resolutions probably aren't for you. (Or you could stick to the one my brother-in-law told me he was going to make: 'Play it by ear'.) As one blogger wrote last January of resolutions, 'I don’t do them because they are made to be broken, and I wish to be whole.' But that quote got me started on thinking about why I feel differently, why resolutions are a positive force in my life, why the inevitability of the point when I no longer keep to them is a minor enough negative to me to be far outweighed by the positive. It was a minor epiphany for me, because I realised that, in fact, I don't see those moments of no longer following a resolution as breaking them; I realised that the way I see them can be more accurately described as running down. And I think that's a far more helpful way to think of it.
New Year's resolutions run down. They lose their power. They do not last forever – we all know that. But, when a battery runs down, we don't interpret that as meaning that it's a broken or failed battery or that we should never have used it in the first place or that it is somehow a reflection on us that that battery did not last forever. We see no contradiction between the fact that that particular battery has run its course and the fact that it was useful at one time and did a perfectly good job of fulfilling its purpose while it lasted. Thus it is with New Year's resolutions. Yes, I do find that feeling of a fresh start and a particular time each year for thinking about how I want to improve my life to be an impetus that works for me. No, it won't last forever. But while it lasts, I will get as much use out of it as I can. And, when those resolutions run down, the blog posts I wrote under their inspiration will still be there, the no-longer-used items that I moved out of the house will still be gone, and, even as I lament the passing of those resolutions, I can still continue reaping the benefits of whatever worthwhile things they did enable me to get done.
Other Controversunday posts:
Happy New Year – amoment2think
There's No U in "Failer" – The Cheeseblog
Resolutions and Goals – Ginger at Rambleramble