Let’s be honest. New Year’s Resolutions are kind of a joke. A sad joke.
They are a flash in the pan of hopefulness. Sure….2012 added fifteen pounds, nearly cleaned out the savings and was as romantic as a Quentin Tarantino movie. But this year will be different. I’m RESOLVED that it will be different. (And I have the resolutions to prove it.) Never. Works.
92% of all that “I can DO IT!” is going to be dumped onto the giant pile of “Life Sucks” by February. Instead of setting up childish easily-discarded resolutions this year…let me introduce to a more advanced and effective way of looking towards 2013, 2014, and the decades beyond.
I loved paddle boats when I was little. Pumping my legs around in a circle as we tried to move the boat forward (in a series of progressive circles). Unfortunately, as soon as you stop pedaling a paddle boat, the current pushes you back exactly where you started. Resolutions are a lot like paddle boats. You work sooooo hard to move towards your hopes and dreams… But as soon as you rest your weary legs, you drift back to the beginning and nothing ever changes.
Principles are more like speed boats. By really thinking through what you really want you and your family to look like, you’re providing the fuel of inner-conviction to push you up stream. It’s not your effort pushing you up the river (because you won’t always feel like making the effort). Instead, your principles are fueling the motor towards your goals.
For example, if your resolution is “get baby to stop screaming” you’re very likely to get frustrated and downhearted. You can’t force that little person to stop screaming.
Instead, decide you are, by principle, an adult who can have compassion on this little ball of screams, and who will push to find the things she needs to help her get through this (medical advice, swaddling, being held).
Decide that you are, by principle, in charge of your emotions and will step away and “let her cry” when you feel you’re getting too close to anger. (I would also recommend picking up ear plugs to take the edge off.)
Ask yourself “How am I going to handle those feelings of frustration in the next few weeks?” and then use those guideposts to light your parenting path when it’s 3am and you are feeling the panic start to creep in.
That’s how you parent by principle in the first (very difficult) year of your baby’s life. But she will only be a “baby” for a year or so.
As a parent who’s a little further down the path, let me encourage you to lift your eyes a little to the years past the endless crying and fussiness.
Consider the principles you want your baby to live by when he’s three…thirteen…thirty. These hopes and dreams will provide a beacon of encouragement through your storm of colic.
A cornerstone is the first stone block placed by the construction of great stone structures. It’s the block that bears the weight of all the OTHER blocks. It literally carries the weight of the entire building. The first step to identifying your family’s principles is to think through the larger values your family will be resting on. What will be driving you? What will you be spending money on? What things will you make a priority?
For example, one of our family cornerstones is our Christian faith. That cornerstone informs how we parent, how we spend our money, the activities we participate in…etc. It is the cornerstone that all our other decisions are filtered through. Take some time to really think through the mission of your family. When your children have flown the nest, what do you want them to look back and say “I’m so glad my parents taught me…..”
So now you’ve actually thought through the things that are going to be driving your family culture for the next few decades, it’s time to lower the focus to THIS YEAR.
A family cornerstone of faith… in 2013 we will start getting into the habit of reading the children’s Bible before bed and attending services on a more regular basis. We will set up playdates with other families who share our beliefs for support and encouragement.
A family cornerstone of sustainable living…in 2013 we will set aside additional funds for cloth diapers and organic foods. I will learn how to make baby food at home and we will make a commitment to recycle.
A family cornerstone of service…in 2013 we will participate in food drives as a family and spend some time letting the baby bring joy to the residents of a local nursing home. We will also set aside monthly income to sponsor a child in India.
A family cornerstone of health…in 2013 I will cook more nutritionally-balanced homemade meals we can share around the table. I will let the kids get involved in cooking healthy foods and everyone will start taking vitamins on a regular basis. I will also give breastfeeding a good try.
A family cornerstone of music & art appreciation…in 2013 I will make bath paints and let baby explore colors in the tub. We will also register for a Kindermusik class to introduce baby to rhythms and sounds. We will start saving for a piano.
Avoid being disappointed with childish resolutions that you can’t control. Your baby is fussy. She’s going to cry. A lot.
You can’t resolve to stop that. But you can, by principle, choose to rise up and care for her despite your aching ear drums.
Principle: I’m a loving mother, even when my children are behaving in an unlovable way.
Action: I will put some earplugs in and sing/rock this screaming baby until I’m hoarse. I will not start thinking about how much I want this baby to be quiet. Instead I will think about how screaming is her only way to communicate and try to console her. If I start getting frustrated, I will set her down, let her scream, and walk away; knowing that the most “loving” thing I can do sometimes is to leave the room until I’ve calmed down enough to try again.
That is much better than any parenting “resolution” for 2013.
That is parenting on purpose.
Heather Gaither is the founder of Your Incredible Infant: Growing in Confidence from Swaddle to Waddle. Learn about breastfeeding, get teething tips, compare formula brands, and how-to’s on her website, http://www.incredibleinfant.com. You can hang out with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/IncredibleInfant.
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