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New Year’s resolutions: Let your kids make their own!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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It is hard to come up with my own New Year’s resolutions, but I can come up with a few off the top of my head: lose 10 pounds, stop eating piles of chocolate and cheese, be more organized, write more, make my kids…make my kids what? Sometimes, in searching for the things I could do better, thoughts of bettering my kids’ lives get intertwined with how I might improve my own. I begin to prioritize them on my to-do list: what can I do to make my boys the best they can be in 2012?

In those moments, like during yoga (sometimes, strangely, only when the instructor reminds me), I have to remember to breathe. I have to stop and remember to inhale, and then exhale, and then let the thoughts dissipate. I am not completely in charge.

I birthed them, yes — these long-haired energetic boys — but they separated from me way back 10 and eight years ago, respectively. I remember the moments in a sort of distinct blur, the chords being cut and then the little goopy bundles being presented to me as distinct beings, breathing and moving of their own accord.

In the car New Year’s Day, driving home from friends, I thought of starting a round of Resolution Roulette, where everybody might stop to ponder aloud the ways in which they could improve in the year ahead. But then I stopped myself. I imagined the eye-rolling that would likely ensue behind me if I interrupted their game-playing, and the sassy resolutions they might come up with then, like, “How about ‘make our mom less annoying’…”

I also stopped because I see signs all the time that my kids try in their own ways, all the time, to move beyond their real or imagined limitations. Eli shook his head from the bench outside Wyndham Lodge as he watched his brother Oscar flip many times in a row on the Bungee/Trampoline ride he himself had just disembarked from. Eli had pushed himself despite a stated fear of heights and the obvious discomfort of jumping high in the air to do a single flip.

“I wish I was less afraid of things,” he said, more matter-of-factly than sad or jealous. I looked at him with sympathy. “You’re cautious, that’s ok. Often it’s the smart way to be,” I said.

“I wish I was less cautious,” he said. I smiled. “So, then, you’ll try to push yourself, like you just did,” I said.

I looked back behind us to the ski lifts we were about to get on, to the slopes Eli had forced me to help him navigate when he tired of ski school a few years back.

“You know,” I said, realizing he was selling himself awfully short, “Not everyone skis, it’s actually a pretty adventurous sport…”

Eli had moved on by then to another thought, to chatting with his brother, who was unharnessed now and trying to get his bearings, dizzy after so very many flips. Oscar himself was surprised at his prowess, far more pleased with his own efforts than he had been when bowling had proven a challenge a few days earlier.

When I look at my boys, I begin to imagine all the things they could do and be, all the ways they could grab hold of life in ways I felt maybe I could only dream of. And then I have to remind myself, again, to breathe. I have to stop and stare, and appreciate who they already are, just as I have to remember to do the same with myself.

I will make my own resolutions and try my best to see them through, to push past the roadblocks of years’ past, and make 2012 big and juicy and beautiful. I can hope that my own efforts will offer up a model that my kids can emulate. But what I cannot do is to decide for them what they want to do or be. I have to leave that to them.

This year, when it comes to my parenting, I resolve to respect my children’s individuality, and to remember that I am only a facilitator. Insofar as it is possible, I want to run a democratic household rather than a dictatorship. When the thought burbles up in my brain that says it is up to me who my children will be this year — and what exactly they will do — I have to remember to breathe and loosen my grip on these little humans. They came out of me, yes, but they stand in this New Year on their own, very strong, two feet, just as they should.

Updated 11:03 am, January 4, 2012
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