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As Christmas takes its final bow and we attempt to don pants without elastic waistbands, I was going to regale you with my own personal list of New Year’s resolutions. In addition to things like “more gym” and “less snacking after supper,” I was going to tell you about my plans to get organized and to drink alcohol on weekends only. I was going to really nail down a way to get my kids to be better eaters. Indeed, I was going to full-on berate myself, resolution-style, for all the ways I am failing as a parent.
But then we were invited to our neighbours for one last Christmas brunch, on the eve of Old Christmas Day.
After a whirlwind morning of hockey and gymnastics with the youngsters we headed over. I forgot the diaper bag but “chances are we won’t need it.” And as a toddler’s ability to self-defecate is inversely proportional to his/her parents’ proximity to a diaper bag, our youngest lit ’er up less than 10 minutes into our visit. I knew this because our gracious hostess made the mistake of leaning over him to play a song on her beautiful (probably antique) piano which our fousty offspring had helped himself to, slamming away as if he were mass slaughtering an army of ants. I noted her briefly gagging as she did her best to make it to the final chords of her song.
Once the baby was taken home and returned anew, we sat down to a meal he refused to touch. We apologized. He then insisted on eating his ice-cream sundae himself, placing the entire bowlful on his angled spoon the way only toddlers do. I watched, helplessly, the slow, sticky run-off down his oblivious forearm into his welcoming sleeve, his kitten-sized licks only expediting the melting process.
He finished, my blood-pressure normalized and we sent both youngsters downstairs. Finally, we could resume an adult conversation, i.e. finish the bottle of Prosecco. We soon noted how quiet and peaceful the house was. Too peaceful. Surely everything was fine — the children had a cozy Christmas tree and Netflix, what could go wrong? Husband went to investigate.
The toddler was M.I.A.
Concealing his panic, husband searched the house before finding the rogue child safely tucked away in the second floor master bedroom, of all places, silently helping himself to our neighbour’s makeup collection. He even offered the courtesy of his signature on her vanity with green eyeliner. His entire face was painted — lipstick, blush, eyeliner...
My horror-stricken husband returned him, still powdered and rouged, to the dining room. I may have blacked out, I can't be sure. Our neighbours seemed genuinely delighted, “nothing a few makeup remover pads can't handle” they assured us between bouts of laughter.
As we quickly wrapped up our visit, the toddler took the liberty of festively shitting himself once more (a confident, blueberry-laced number). He also touched every Christmas cookie before placing them, haphazardly, back down on the once beautifully assorted tray. He capped it all off by stealing a lime. How and when did he manage to acquire a lime? Who’s to say, really.
Now, the ready-to-repent me of 2018, just days ago, would have been horrified by my child in that moment — a pungent, snoopy, kleptomaniac with little to no regard for the possessions or air quality of others. And I would have vowed to, henceforth, be nothing like myself in that moment — a mother too distracted and disorganized to pack a proper diaper bag; God knows the toddler was still wearing his sweatpants from gymnastics...
But, in hindsight, realizing the hilarity he brought to the occasion with the double-whammy diaper debauchery, surprise makeover and stolen citrus, I can’t help but wonder: what am I resolving to change? Unexpected laughter? Chances to roll with the punches? The inherent imperfection of parenting and children? Aren’t those all the things that add color to life?
Was I resolving to “struggle harder” for beige?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of setting goals, but they shouldn’t all be about deprivation. Sometimes, resolutions should be about indulgence — giving ourselves permission to go with the flow and embrace, more often, the things that bring us joy.
A year without adult pajama days, Netflix binges in lieu of the gym, breakfast mimosas and smelly toddlers in makeup? Sounds pretty boring.
So, if you forgot to make resolutions, or if the ones you’ve written just make you feel bad about yourself, here are some fail-proof, joy-inducing resolution recommendations:
1. Sign out of Facebook.
2. Stare at snow falling by a streetlight.
3. Watch your partner's lips more when he/she is talking, like you did when you were first dating.
4. Listen to your child as though you are your former child-self so you can better understand where he/she might be coming from. And so you can have really interesting conversations you actually care about rather than just doing the mom/dad thing: disengaged but faking it.
5. Accept that you're never going to form that folk band and, instead, play all the songs you can with the four chords you know. Just start playing.
6. Laugh as much as possible. And when it seems like there’s nothing to laugh about, just hold on; hindsight is usually hilarious.
7. Love your body more. Say nice things to it out loud (it can hear you!). No matter your age, it will never be this young again.
8. Eat delicious things.
9. Create something. Even if it’s just a fancy pizza (see Resolution 8).
10. Forgive yourself each time you go directly against Resolutions 1-9. Because you will. Because you’re flawed and fabulous.
A friend of a friend once said, “I made a New Year's resolution to give up alcohol, smoking and sex. It was the worst 20 minutes of my life.”
Here's to 2019 being the best 525,600 minutes of yours.
Heather Huybregts is a mother, physiotherapist, blogger (www.heatheronarock.com), wine advocate and puffin whisperer from Corner Brook. Her column appears monthly.