According to a recent article in The Guardian, 43% of resolutions are broken within a month and 80% within three months. Lifestyle Gurus often warn against starting a new regime on Jan 1 because of its likelihood of failure. However, I like to make promises to myself at New Year and, even if I know deep down I won't stick to my plan to juice and drink my 5-a-day for breakfast after completing 100 star jumps, I enjoy the sense of hopeful self-belief that I might. This year, as well as my own personal plans involving less of the things I like and more of the things I don't, I am going to attempt the following.
1. Only say 'hurry up' when we are actually in a rush.
During the two week Christmas holiday, I have realised how often I say those two words to my children. I hurried them through their breakfast even when we were not going out, hurried them along during a walk through the forest even though we had nowhere to be; I even found myself telling them to hurry up brushing their teeth. I am so used to having a million things to do and places to be that I am rushing us when we could just slow down and take our time. Achieving nothing but a rise in my blood pressure, I am pledging to only hurry when completely necessary. At all other times, I will rival the Dalai Lama with my calm acceptance of the time it takes them to perform the most basic of functions or to fulfil my requests to get dressed, flush the toilet or tell me what they want for dinner. Which leads me neatly onto my second resolution.
2. Be realistic about how much time it takes to do things.
Currently I ask the children to put on their costs and shoes five minutes before we leave the house. This is because it only takes five minutes to put on a coat and shoes. Except it doesn't. Five minutes does not allow for the time it takes to argue about appropriate footwear (the girl), find ANY footwear (the boy), agree how many toys can be taken on the outing (both), realise someone needs the toilet, remember someone wanted a drink, find the car keys, sob how you used to be able to leave the house in five minutes (me) and fight about who got to the car first. Result: we are late, I am stressed, kids have a screaming harpy for a mother. From now on I will estimate how long it will take us to do something and multiply by four.
3. Focusing on the moment
So often, I find myself reluctantly playing a game with the children whilst mentally planning dinner, moving stuff into piles so it looks tidier and thumbing through my FB page. If I'm really honest, children's games bore me senseless and seem to take an infinity of time, which is why I do something else simultaneously to alleviate my pain. Deep down, I know that their desire to play kittens with me as the mummy cat has a limited shelf life and one day I will be giving myself a Chinese burn because I didn't make the most of it. Thus I pledge to give their game of Spies and Ninja Princesses my full attention for at least 15 minutes before begging for a reprieve.
4. Not attempting activities which I know will end in disaster
Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. With this is mind, I plan to decline well-meant invitations for activities which always become the polar opposite of ‘fun’. I’m sure you know the kind of thing I mean. Lunch with families containing the world’s best behaved children, playdates at show homes, large noisy parties where the children have access to Coca-Cola or anything which involves sitting quietly still for more than 15 minutes. For the last six years, I have attempted to attend everything we have been invited to, even when my husband shakes his head from side to side in piteous disbelief. But no more. If I think it will end in tears (theirs, mine, our host’s) I will politely decline and stay home practising my lines as the chief Ninja Princess Spy.
And that is it. There are many other areas I could have added. I could commit to making homemade cakes for school fetes, to feed the kids Fish Fingers a maximum of once a week or to always give a full explanation of my reasons rather than screaming "because I'm your mother!" But even my love of hopefulness has a realistic side. I am going to keep these resolutions short and achievable in the hope that they will have a more lasting impact than those in The Guardian’s poll.
And while I may not manage more than ten minutes pretending to lick my kitten children before surreptitiously checking my email and I may not leave enough time to walk to school and therefore be seen dragging two half-dressed children to the gates, I will know at least that I tried and, as my children will be able to recite to you, all you can do is try your best.