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Working together with kids on resolutions

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My children know that I am, in general, opposed to New Year’s resolutions. If you want to improve something in your life or make a new goal, why wait for an arbitrary date in the middle of winter? Why not make a new month’s resolution? New day?

I’ve written before about how I sometimes have to do a new hour reset in order to change the mood for the rest of the afternoon. (We also try to stay away from anything even remotely weight loss-related, but that’s another topic for another day. Suffice to say that I grew up with the impression that being an adult woman meant constantly dieting and monitoring your body, and I’m doing everything in my power not to pass that on.)

That said, I decided that, given the time of year, I’d ask my kids if there were any new goals they’d been thinking about that we could work on together. Their brains went immediately to traditional New Year’s resolutions, and their first responses were all things that sound like the “right” answer. When we dove a little deeper, however, the answers started to change.

One of my sons, who is in sixth grade, said that he’d try to be a faster runner.

“Why?” I asked him. “Because,” he said, “almost all the kids in my P.E. class are faster than me.”

“Does that bother you?”

“Not really. It just seems like I’m supposed to be faster.”

“Do you think it will make you happier? Or make your life better?”

“Well … I guess not. Hey, do you think I could learn python coding instead? I really want to learn it!”

We decided that we’d download some free programs to help him learn, and he’s setting some benchmarks for when he wants to have completed various challenges. We’re not calling it a New Year’s resolution, but he’s really excited to start deepening his skills on something he really enjoys. The prospect of intentionally devoting more time to something that brings him joy changed his whole outlook on the idea of setting a goal.

It’s a lesson that I hope he, and my other children as well, will take to heart. In a world that is always pushing us to be “better” (and defining for us what “better” even means), there is power in choosing to be intentional in prioritizing what brings us joy.

In this season when we’re bombarded with messaging about how we’re supposed to “improve” ourselves, I’m encouraging my children (and myself, really) to consider what would actually make our lives more joyful and meaningful. Everything else is just advertising.

(Except for my daughter, who said she was resolving to keep her room clean. I don’t know if her picking up laundry would make her life more joyful, but I know for a fact it’d do wonders for mine.)

Happy New Year!

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