The Naughty List, and New Year’s Resolutions

In a combination of what was a whirl-wind December and holiday season, begun about half-way through Advent on an evening where I decided that typing was a better use for my hands than wringing the necks of naughty children.

Let’s talk now about something I think most parents don’t want to admit. My children are definitely not on the Nice list this year. Are yours? Are anyone’s?

It feels impossible to live the way I want to live this (or any) December. In my fantasies, there are sweet moments of baking, where nobody fights over the rolling pin or eats all the chocolate chips out of the batter. In my realities, the kitchen is too messy to get to all that baking anyway. And on the rare afternoon that I do, the screaming, fighting, and flour-spilling are almost not worth it.

I love to take my children to the playground on a brisk, sunny winter afternoon. And in my fantasies, they appreciate going, play nicely, and then come when they are called when it’s time to leave. In reality, I find myself at the playground gate holding a shivering Bitsy, whose hands are literally blue, screaming that the baby is freezing and the other two won’t be going to see Santa this weekend if they don’t GET TO THE GATE BY THE COUNT OF THREE…which of course they don’t. And now we aren’t going to see Santa this weekend. Except of course we will, so I will have to make up some other way for them to “work around” this punishment of not getting to go see Santa, which usually involves doing extra chores like carrying laundry to the hamper or picking up somebody else’s toys. Which ultimately undermines my authority because they realize they can be naughty now and still get time off for good behavior, but I don’t really care. I wanna see Santa.

And in my fantasies, my life is absolutely devoid of the annoying lectures I spill forth, almost verbatim from my childhood, about coming when called and considering the freezing baby and when mommy says “now,” now means now, right away, not whenever you get around to it and by the way stop trying to ask me questions because CAN’T YOU SEE I’M ON THE PHONE? and nobody listens to them but me. (Except I’m pretty sure they must be filing them away somewhere, because those lectures are going to come right back spewing out when they have children.)

To be fair, I wanted these children. So I made my own bed, and now I gotta lie in it.

My children are bright and funny, and they have the capacity to be amazingly sweet and thoughtful individuals. And this actually happens about 12% of the time. Apparently it happens more like 65% of the time that they are in the care of other people. Great.

And there you have the sum of everything I had time to write in December. Feels a little unfinished—kind of like my month, my holiday, and my credit card bill. But now greeting cards have all been sent, (except I didn’t send any) the Christmas rush is through (except it’s still up all over our house even though we’re three days into Ordinary Time) and I still have one wish to make (and not just for a Carpenters Greatest Hits CD)…

I do wish, in this New Year, that I can appreciate my children more for the kids they are, and not the kids I want them to be. That’s the whole goal and focus of parenting, isn’t it? Because these little people, naughty though they can be, are really just kids. And they will not be who or what I expect them to be, but God expects me to love them anyway. And I do. I just know that my whole life will be a lot easier twenty years from now if I can hone that habit today of relinquishing (not my hopes, but) my ever-present expectations. Because they really are such wonderful children.

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