On the very last day of 2015, I squeezed in this new year’s post and shared this resolution worksheet with all of you. It was a small token of my appreciation for all of the kindness that you had shown to my little blog in 2015. Frankly, I am still surprised, humbled, and incredibly thankful that you have come along for the ride so far!
When I posted this worksheet for you, I hadn’t yet tried it myself. It was still a theory, as in, “I just know this is going to be fantastic! This is good, right? Maybe? Fingers crossed!” But I am also a pro at embracing theories that fail miserably. Like my theory that our boys needed a really cute, rather expensive playhouse in the backyard that turned out to be invisible to them except when it interfered with their soccer game. (Not really my problem. My kids don’t know something amazing when they see it.) Or my theory that getting each boy his own hamster would prevent headaches for me in the long run. (Did you know that a female hamster can get pregnant immediately after delivering the first unexpected litter of baby hamsters? No? Yeah. Me neither.) Or my theory that roller skating with my kiddos would allow me to feel young and free of responsibility for a while. (You know I’m still paying the medical bills for that one.)
Fortunately, this time my theory proved to be correct, but not right off the bat.
First, let me remind you that I live with three human beings who are all fighting for survival in one stage of manhood or another. At my house, this means that words like “feelings” or “reflection” or “mom has a great idea” are usually met with some combination of grunts and moans and groans. Generally, any suggestion that doesn’t involve sports or inappropriate jokes or video games has to marinate with them for a while. As one of my smaller men said while pretending to cry (to get a laugh from the other men, I’m sure), “Sometimes it really stinks to have a mom who’s a teacher!”
Plus, they always know that I’m outnumbered. It’s so unfair.
So when I first mentioned at the dinner table that we would be doing this little project, they scoffed and made a few jokes and grunted and acknowledged their masculinity. Once we got that out of the way, everything went just as I had planned. Lesson to be learned, ladies: If you have a tough audience, don’t give up too quickly. That tough stuff is all on the exterior, I promise. Unless you actually know my husband, in which case I swear that he really IS a tough guy, inside and out. Seriously. No, really, he is. Don’t get me into trouble.
I may have planted the seed during a family dinner, but my secret to learning the joys and the hurts and the longings of my boys’ hearts is to corner them when no one else is home. Those quiet times, times when we can talk without distractions, when the testosterone level in the house is not at a critically high level, are some of my favorite moments. And no matter how much they scoff at my crazy ideas together at the dinner table, they are surprisingly receptive to them when we get to spend some quality mom-and-son time with one another. Honestly, we had a lot of fun filling out these worksheets together, just the two of us, reflecting on the year that was and the year that is still to come.
Sometimes we take for granted that we know our kids, that we know what is important to them, what matters to them most. But sometimes we are wrong, and that’s a shame, because they will often tell us if we just take the time to ask some questions and then to listen to what they have to say. I wasn’t surprised that both of my sons remembered 2015 as a year of sadness. It was a tough one for all of us. Our fall was a fog of farewells and funerals.
But the second part, the part about Lola, was something that I didn’t even remember at first. I expected my son to talk about a sports achievement or a report card for this one, but his proudest achievement from the entire year was the time he saved our puppy from harm. He had been carrying her on a snowy winter day when he slipped on the ice on the patio and crash landed; she was just a tiny pup, and he was responsible for her, so he cradled her in his arms even as his head hit the cold, hard concrete. I had forgotten about how worried I was that he might have had a concussion. I had forgotten about how proud he had been. I had forgotten what a warm, loving heart that boy has when he’s not telling fart jokes.
And then there were conversations like this one, with my sarcastic pre-teenager.
Yes, that actually says that in 2015 he learned that “a date is also a fruit that makes you poop.” I guess this is a quotation from his favorite cartoon, Gumball. This kid loves an audience, but he is also happy just to crack himself up. And he really is funny. He is witty and smart, and it was nice to take a break from questioning his filtering mechanism just to laugh with him for a while. He can be serious when he wants to be, too.
I’m pretty sure that we haven’t cut back on screen time just yet, but he is doing well so far with the others. He also decided to spend more time on art this year because I think he had actually forgotten what a talented artist he is. He made this Star Wars card for his friend’s birthday recently, and I am pretty sure that if that kid weren’t one of his best buddies, he wouldn’t have given this away.
My favorite part of the one-on-one sessions was helping each boy choose a quotation to guide 2016. My younger son scoured the Internet for quotations from athletes he admires. We talked about several of the quotations that he found – some examples of good character and others, not so much – and he settled on this one from Lebron James:
“Don’t be afraid of failure. This is the way to succeed.”
Nice choice, right? My older son immediately ran to his room to find this quotation from NBA basketball player Muggsy Bogues:
“If you can play the game, size doesn’t matter.”
So many of the things that we worry about don’t really matter if we are willing to work hard and stop making excuses, right? This boy is passionate about basketball, but he is small, so this quotation motivates him to stay in the game just like Muggsy did at 5′ 3″. Another good choice!
I shared my quotation for 2016 with the boys, too. It doesn’t need an explanation:
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Next, we needed to work together to create a family motto, so it was back to the dinner table one evening. Our goal was to complete the statement, “2016 will be the year of ___.” I was thinking of something like “kindness” or “teamwork.” You know, something that would promote good character at home. But that was just me.
One of my men suggested, “2016, the year of the chicken.”
Don’t ask. I have no idea what that means.
Another suggested, “2016, the year of awesome.” Now this seemed, well, AWESOME, at first, but we quickly realized that it would be impossible to measure. I imagined a year of conversations like this:
“Wow! Those roasted Brussel sprouts were awesome.” (Me)
“No way! Yuck! That was awful! You know what was awesome? That football game
that we watched last night! Remember when that one guy did that one thing and they
replayed it twenty times? That was awesome!” (A son)
“Yeah, right, that was great . . . I loved every minute . . . *Sigh*” (Me)
Then my husband suggested, “2016, the year of NEW!” And on the outside I was smiling and nodding, but on the inside I was thinking, What are you doing??? Work with me here, dude! New? What does this even mean! I knew we should have talked about this . . . However, as the idea started to take shape, I realized that this was a fun and challenging resolution. New doesn’t mean that we have to BUY new things every week. It means that we have to TRY new things every week. And they don’t have to be BIG things; they just have to be NEW (to us) things. And NEW is easy to measure. You have either tried it before or you haven’t. No debate! So here is what it looks like so far:
Week 1: New Recipe
(It was okay . . . Not wonderful . . . But it was new!)
Week 2: New (Old) TV Show With the Kids
(Parental warning: This has been fun, but there is more innuendo than I remembered!)
Week 3: Ice Cream Taste Testing
(Sorry, Jimmy. Colbert wins by a landslide.)
Week 4: Lunchbox Quotes of the Day
(More about this to come in another post!)
January is almost over, but it’s not too late to start a new 2016 tradition with your family, too. So far, the “year of new” has prompted some interesting conversations about what we have learned or tried each week, and we already have some fun ideas in store! It is also relatively easy; you can always try a new food, read a new book, see a new movie, or play a new game without investing too much money in the experience. From our house to yours, we hope that your 2016 is off to a great start!
Be adventurous! Try something new!