My Top Five Resolutions As A Parent For 2012

Dear Michael and Caroline,

When it comes to being a parent, I would like to believe that my performance with both of you over the years has proven to be absolutely perfect.

Big mistake.

For however much I might prefer to regard myself as unfailingly attentive, infinitely patient, endlessly understanding and wise beyond measure – the father of all fathers, a future Hall of Famer – I’ve more than likely turned out to be selfish, distracted, temperamental and just plain dense.

And that’s on a good day.

As fathers go, in other words, I’m no dream. Then again, I’m probably no great nightmare either.

Take that time I yelled at both of you over nothing whatsoever.

No, not that time, the other time.

The upshot is this: I’ve practiced parenthood for 28 years now, and if practice makes perfect, maybe in 2012 I can finally get it right.

So here, in the interest of achieving the massive self-improvement needed, are my top five resolutions along those lines:

1. Pay closer attention. It’s widely rumored that I may once in a while miss certain key details in conversation – though in retrospect, I forget exactly what they are. So the claim may well be valid. I promise to tune in.

2. Give you some space. About 800 square feet should do the trick, I figure. So no more rapidfire cross-examinations about your latest activities, and definitely no more enhanced interrogation techniques to ascertain your career plans. You might find the extra elbow room, not to mention the extra breathing room, come in handy.

3. Stop interrupting. See “pay closer attention.”

4. Watch my tone. You often accuse me of coming off as sounding harsh and condescending. The only possible reasonable explanation for such a charge is that I probably do. So I’m going to take voice lessons. I may even practice scales. Come tomorrow, look for my new, much-improved B-flat.

5. Share less. By this point I suspect you both know as much about me – my background, my opinions, my philosophy – as you could ever possibly care to know, and possibly a good deal more. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m occasionally going to clam up.

I could go on, of course. But instead let’s conduct an audit a year from now to see how these resolutions pan out. And please remember: the difficult may be doable, but perfection might take some time.

New Year’s Eve Guest Columnist “No Drama Mama:” Why I Should Just Let You Be You

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She is an attorney, a wife of eight years and a mother of two years. When she’s not working, wifing (yes, she knows that’s not a word!), and mothering, she can be found hiking or writing at No Drama Mama (

http://www.thenodramamama.com). She remains anonymous at her employer’s request, so urges you against trying to figure out her identity.

Dear Miss L,

We had an awesome year together. I will always treasure 2011 as the year you learned to talk, the year you stopped being my baby and started being my little girl, and the year we realized you were deathly afraid of chickens. But now 2011 is ending, and it’s time to look forward to 2012. 2011 was great, but next year is going to be even better! To kick it off right, I came up with a few resolutions:

1. Let you be you. I’m just going to say it: I hate playing baby. I hate playing tea party. I don’t want to pretend to change your doll’s diapers, or pretend to cook you food. I already have a baby to care for (you!) and I already have to cook and clean dishes (also mostly because of you!). But these are your favorite games, and as much as I wish you would play with your trains instead, I resolve to be a more willing participant. And on the days when I really can’t stand another second, I resolve to tag in your daddy.

2. Take a weekend off. Speaking of daddy, I resolve to steal him away for a weekend trip and leave you with Nana and Papa. The most important thing I can do as your mom is to give you two parents who love each other as much as we love you. Marriages take work, and if that “work” can be done at a romantic hotel on a white sand beach, far away from tantrums and early morning wake-up calls, so much the better. We’ll send you a postcard!

3. Write moreabout you. I know, I already write a lot! But the truth is, a lot of the things I write about you are not exactly flattering. Writing is an outlet for me, and let’s face it, the drama is funnier than the sweet moments (although I do occasionally mention those too, I swear!). While I was pregnant, your daddy bought me a journal just to write about you. It has only one entry. In the throes of morning sickness, I wrote “Dear Baby, you make me sick. Hugs and kisses, Mommy.” So I resolve to fill the journal full of stories of you, the funny things you say, and what makes your face light up. You’re changing every day, leaving old phases behind and entering new ones. Too many wonderful moments are easily forgotten, and we will need those memories to get us through the teenager years.

Here’s to a year full of stories, tea parties, and love!

Love,

Mommy

 

P.S. – Tomorrow see my own parental resolutions for 2012.

New Year’s Eve Guest Columnist David Rosen:You Opened My Eyes So I Can Open Yours

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David and his family, wife Deborah and daughters Allison, 9, and Jessica, 6, live in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. David has worked in pharmaceutical and healthcare public relations since 1993 and met Bob at an agency where they worked in 1999. After getting caught up in a “workforce reduction” in December, 2008 at Bristol-Myers Squibb, he wandered the earth in search of his next position, and has been doing contract work for Vox Medica in Philadelphia. In 2010 he went back to school to become a New Jersey state certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and answers the call in both Cherry Hill and Berlin, NJ. He’s also a volunteer firefighter.

Dear Allison (Allie) and Jessica (Jess),

When I lost my job three years ago, I initially thought the worst. But the two of you helped show me there’s much more to life than just work. I gained a new perspective on life and what’s truly important.

In 2012, I resolve to be the cornerstone of your lives, just as the two of you are the center of my universe. I will be there for you. I will reinforce your strengths. I will pick you up when you fall and help you understand what happened and how you can give yourself a better chance for success the next time. I want to do for you what you unconsciously did for me when I was at my lowest point.

When you encouraged me to volunteer at your school, you opened my eyes to something I had lost sight of: my desire to help others. I had become so consumed over the years by my work that I forgot how much I love to help others. So I began to volunteer with the Fire Department. And then, before I knew it, I fulfilled a dream I had as a teenager. I became an emergency medical technician, or EMT.

Your interest in my new career and your reactions to the stories I tell you about the people I meet and help really bring home the impact I’m making on others. I hope you’re learning from my actions and will become people who look out for others and lend a helping hand to those in need. If I can help shape you into caring, concerned women who “pay it forward,” I will have done much to prepare you for this crazy world we live in.

Right now I’m sure you both think your mother and I are sometimes too hard on you. That’s because we want you to learn from our mistakes. It’s also because we understand that while other people will offer advice, ultimately you control your own lives and make your own choices.

We want you to give your all to everything you try, and to keep your chin up when facing disappointment and learn how to deal with it. Life can be very tough. The next time you’re up to bat – you know I had to throw in a baseball reference — you’ll be prepared hit all the curves thrown at you.

Love, Daddy

P.S. — Tomorrow see New Year’s Eve guest column from “No Drama Mama.”

New Year’s Eve Guest Columnist Mindy Gikas: Finding The Faith To Be Faithful, The Patience To Be Patient

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Mindy Gikas and her husband, Reverend Basil Gikas, are the proud parents of Justin, 12, and Lillianna, 10. They currently live in Yardville, NJ. Mindy is an SVP of Human Resources for a firm in NewYork City and Father Bill is a Greek Orthodox Priest. They will be moving to northern New Jersey in the New Year as Father Bill is assigned to a new parish community.

Dear Justin and Lilli,

We often start the New Year with resolutions, and while they are well intentioned, they are forgotten quickly as the holidays end and we resort to the reality of our crazy hectic lives. A friend of mine has given me a gift; he’s suggested I write this letter to you. Perhaps in writing this for others to read, it will give our 2012 resolutions a greater chance for success. Let’s see!

Justin, I resolve to have greater faith in you so that you will gain your focus and motivation to achieve the academic success that we all know you have within you. I know you don’t enjoy your father and me constantly staying on top of you regarding your homework and studying; in 2012 we will trust in you to get it done without a million reminders. I also resolve to be less worried and perhaps more willing to permit you to try some of those activities that I fear, like riding dirt bikes, riding over ramps on your bicycle and using circular saws. I will remind you, though; I’m your mother and as such, will never readily allow you to participate in anything I think is possibly dangerous.

Lillianna, I resolve to continue to listen to all that you want to tell me, and to be more patient with you, especially later in the evening, when I am tired and you still want to read with me, tell me stories about your day or just want me to spend time with you. I will even resolve to try to get home earlier each night so perhaps I won’t be quite so tired. I also resolve to let you have the freedom to decorate your new room with as many neon colors and zebra prints as you like. And to continue be your best friend always and help you (as you want me to) in finding new best friends.

Finally, we already know that 2012 will be a year of tremendous change, challenge and opportunity as we get acclimated to a new parish, leave our current home and find a new home and start our life in a new location.

My final resolution to both of you is that I will help us all to maintain our faith in God and our sense of humor as we embark on our new adventure. I love you both more than anything! Happy 2012!

P.S. – Tomorrow please see New Year’s Eve guest column from David Rosen.

New Year’s Eve Guest Columnist Seth Levin: You, Little Girl, Will Be My Magic Medicine

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Philosopher, artist, biophysicist – Seth Levin is none of these. But he is a loving husband to his high-school sweetheart, Melanie, a caring father to Elliana, his 21-month-old daughter, and best friend to his dog, Buddy. He lives in Washington, D.C., near his parents. the greatest role models in the world. He’s a vice president at the communications firm Weber Shandwick, where he gets to do cool stuff for clients and causes.

Dear Elliana,

 

When my friend Bob invited me to write a letter to you with a few New Year’s resolutions, I jumped at the chance. But then I started to worry.

  

What would I write?

 

Should it be serious or silly or both?

 

Will your mom like it?

 

Will you like it? (After all, you’re very smart and will probably be ready to read this by the age of two.)

 

You’re probably asking yourself, “Dad, why was this so hard? It’s just a letter. I’ll love it no matter what you say” (you are so sweet).

 

Well, it has to do with something pretty serious: my depression. Since age 17, I’ve suffered from clinical depression and seasonal affective disorder. Over the years, it has shaken my confidence, and made me feel that my personal opinions and thoughts are of little value.

 

But when you were born, I thought, I’ll never be depressed again; my daughter is pure joy. On the latter, I turned out to be right. The former is a different story. 2010 ended poorly, and 2011 started off no better. It was hard to believe, but I found myself unable to appreciate your smiles and cuddles, or to enjoy watching you intently study something new.

 

I never want this to happen again. So in 2012, I resolve the following: to ask you certain questions.

 

Question #1.

 

Me: If I start to feel depressed in 2012, should I hide it or talk openly with those closest to me?

 

You: Talk – with Mommy, Poppa (grandpa), Booj (grandma), Buddy (the dog), Lillis (Elliana, she’s two), aunt eah (Leah).

 

Me: You’re right, I should talk to my family. They love me and have helped in the past. However, if I talked to the dog, people might think I have a different psychiatric disorder.

 

Question #2.

 

Me: Should I get up earlier on weekends and walk with you to the playground?

 

You: Anna, outside! Anna, jacket! Anna, walk!

 

Me: Good idea. Start the day with sunshine and fresh air but no stroller.

 

Question #3.

 

Me: How about music class and the aquarium?

 

You: Fishy, Daufin (Dolphin). B-I-N-E-O, B-I-N-E-O.

 

Me: OK, let’s go to the aquarium and sing “Bingo”the whole way.

 

Question #4.

 

Me: Do I need to eat healthier and exercise?

 

You: Beans, carrot, nomato (tomato), eggy, chicken.

 

Me: Thanks for sharing a list of your favorite foods; I’ll go running too.

 

Well, I better get started; this is a long list. Meantime, I’m going to pursue another of my resolutions right now. Get ready, my Elliana. I promise to squeeze your cheeks more.

 

Wishing you Happy New Year, with unconditional love forever,

 

Your Daddy

 

P.S. – Long-term resolution: Depression runs in our family, and I pray you never get it. But if you do ever feel confused, sad or anxious without knowing why, I am there for you. We’ll get through it together.

New Year’s Eve Guest Columnist Francesca Lunzer Kritz: Skip Chocolate Cake, Fret Less, See Degas Exhibit

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Francesca Lunzer Kritz is the lead writer for NewPublicHealth.org, the public health blog of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She lives in Silver Spring, Md, and is the mother of Dina, 19 and Matthew, 16, who have brought new shine to words such as joy, delight and pride. She occasionally sees her husband of 22 years, who is currently posted in Jerusalem working on the Middle East peace initiative. 

Dear Dina and Matthew,

Now that Matt is leaving home for college in just 32 weeks — your room isn’t rented out, Matt, so if my count is off, feel free to stay longer — I’ve begun thinking about what I’ve done right and wrong in my parenting over these exquisite 19 years and have made some resolutions for 2012.  

I’m going to lose some weight. I would like to be healthy enough and live long enough to see you enjoy your children in your homes as much as I have enjoyed mine. Chocolate cake is not better than that privilege (even though some days it seems as though it is).

Once Matthew heads to Jerusalem for his gap study year in the fall, I will stop asking him, and have stopped asking Dina, to always let me know your whereabouts. That epiphany is a result of Dina’s phone going on the fritz en route to campus a few months ago and me losing some hair over wondering where she was. Go with G-d, take sensible precautions and charge your phone because that’s a reasonable practice, not because Mom might be trying to plot your every move.

I’m going to start a savings account. Even with one college tuition (and soon two), shifting some coffees and cabs will put a few dollars into an account. Besides, it’s a good example to set and helps create a cushion for all our futures.

I am going to stay on top of taking photos of all of us, and then printing and framing them. You are both beautiful, inside and out, and I want to catalogue your fun and your accomplishments, too.

I’m going to see the Degas ballet exhibit at the Phillips collection. It’s near my office and that will be the first step toward realizing the fun things I can do with my empty nesting time and not just focus on how much I will miss the two of you come August.

At night before I go to sleep I will take a minute to marvel at the trust G-d put in me to have allowed me to raise the two of you.

P.S. – Tomorrow see New Year’s Eve guest column from Seth Levin.

New Year’s Guest Columnist Francine Brevetti: Getting Unstuck For 2012

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Francine Brevetti, a longtime journalist, writes clients’ biographies and conducts workshops teaching people how to write their own.She calls herbusiness Legend Crafter, www.legendcrafter.com. A San Francisco native, she worked as a reporter for newspapers and magazines around the world and is the author of “The Fabulous Fior — over 100 Years in an Italian Kitchen,” the history of America’s oldest Italian restaurant (http://www.fabulousfior.com/book/, available on Amazon.com).

Twenty years ago LeeAnn started documenting her very painful life. Her mother beat her every day of her childhood and into adulthood. The woman berated and demeaned LeeAnn without letup. Still LeeAnn kept her journal.

She organized binders of her recollections and other documents about her life chronologically. She crossfiled by topic. But she could never bring herself to write a manuscript about her life story. She got stuck.

Last year she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. She came to one of my six-week workshops on how to write one’s life story. Her diagnosis compelled her to get it down at last. LeeAnn was driven to complete it while she could, for fear that she would never have the chance again.

For most of us, fear keeps us from writing our autobiographies. It freezes us.

So now it’s resolution time. With the turn of every new year we generally reassess what we want to accomplish. Many of my clients feel compelled to get their personal histories down on paper. Maybe they do so as a legacy for their children, one of the greatest gifts anyone can give. Others do so to honor their parents, heal their souls, affirm how they see the world and, in the process, simply get a better perspective of their lives.

But some people, like LeAnn, reach an impasse, either never starting or never finishing. Let’s look at some of the obstacles that stop people from writing their autobiographies. They are paper tigers. If you’ve run into this problem, here’s some advice about how to confront whatever is stopping you.

Margot, in her first session in my workshop wrote a gripping account of her birth during the bombing in the Netherlands in World War II. But she could not persist. Every session after that she made excuses about why she couldn’t write in the intervening week. From comments she let slip during the class, I sensed that she couldn’t face recalling the rest of her life. You have to be ready, of course.

Like Margot, some of us shrink from reliving those horrible times, the times we failed, the times someone left us. But this is exactly our chance to take a step back and see it all from a higher point of view.

For instance, Alfie Adona, now a young mother, lived through a tragic childhood. Her father was poisoned and lived the rest of his 10 years as an invalid. Two years later her mother was the victim of a debilitating traffic accident. Alfie and her sister had to take charge of the family while they were in their early teens. From lack of adult guidance, they lost their house and car.

Their family’s tragedy was covered amply in the local news. This did not mortify Alfie; in fact, it emboldened her to tell her own story. You can see it at www.theSeludostory.com.

If anything is preventing you from writing a memoir, I suggest you join a memoir writing class for guidance and support. Besides the instructor’s guidance,you can find a buddy with whom to share the experience of recollecting and recording.

Another reason people get stuck is for fear of offending the living. In one of our sessions, Theresa asked me how she could write about her mother, who was still living, without offending her. Despite her love for her parent, she felt that recording her mother’s character traits and certain incidents would cause her mother pain and perhaps alienate them from each other.

I told her that if she intended to disseminate this account while her mother was still alive, she should remove or temper the material she thought would offend her.

Another issue is the so-called writers block. To me, it stems from a kind of perfectionism, an inner voice that is self-critical. Some merely mechanical difficulties may make you feel insecure, too: how to structure of your document, uncertainty about grammar, insufficient research and so on.

My advice: if you can talk, you can write. Simply to start writing, even if you’re unsure of your theme or your direction. Keep going for at least 20 minutes with pure stream of consciousness. No judging, no editing. Anything that crops up in your brain is fair game.

From such chaos a theme or structure will eventually emerge. You will read it back and be amazed. Trust me.

My wish for you in 2012: get down the first draft of your life story.

Oh, and by the way, LeeAnn is fine now.