are all the rage this time of year. The simple idea of a new calendar brings hope and expectation for things to be, in some way, different. Too often those goals are formed out of the shadows in our lives, rather than in the light. We aren’t thin enough, so we want to lose weight. We’re watching too much T.V. so we drop our Netflix subscription. We aren’t close enough with a certain family member so we tell ourselves we will call them more frequently. A majority of New Year’s Resolutions seem to come from a place of improving our individual lives. What about our family life? As parents, what goals and resolutions do we want to pursue for our entire family?
Resolve for the family
The reason I like thinking about resolutions as a family affair is because I believe that family life is naturally conducive to setting goals, planning, routine and rhythm. Parenting is fundamentally incremental. Never simply linear, a parent understands the journey of raising children isn’t as much a clean, march forward as it is a dizzying back and forth, round and round, through various ups and downs. And then at the end, you look at this person who is kind of becoming what you hope they would, and you breath deep. Isn’t that just like a New Year’s resolution? You start out hoping your life will look a certain way and you really don’t know how you are going to get there, what bumps you will encounter along the way. Successful New Year’s Resolutions, like parenting, rely on incremental progress.
Let me offer a suggestion as you begin thinking about what you would want your family to take on together in 2017. Choose something that will get your entire clan more engaged in the community, together. Resolving to get more engaged in that non-profit you love is wonderful, but is there a way for you to make that a family endeavor? If you found yourself discontented with the past political season we all just lived through, is there a way that you could resolve to get your entire family more engaged politically? Perhaps around a certain issue, perhaps just to become more informed.
The reason I bring up community involvement as a possible goal for 2017 is that we often tell ourselves the reason we aren’t more involved with our community is because of the requirements and responsibilities we have for our children. Isn’t that a bit backwards? Imagine if we set our family intentions first, and then allowed the individual goals to come next? Most parents I know would adamantly agree that their children and family are a top priority, and yet, over time, we allow a fragmented scheduling calendar to pull us in different directions. In turn we keep that core value on the shelf like a family heirloom instead of posted on the refrigerator, integrated into our daily lives.
A great investment
There is, of course, another reason getting involved in the community all together is a great idea. It is an investment. As we invest in our children we are investing in our community. We are helping create citizens that will grow up into the type of leader and community-minded people we would want as neighbors for ourselves. Resolving to get more involved in the community in a meaningful way as a family can help create a community where we would all want to be more involved.
If this all feels too idealistic, or you can’t think of too many examples you’ve seen of this type of family life, don’t worry. Your job with a New Year’s resolution isn’t to accomplish it all at once. Take a small step. You are creating memories that lead to traditions and taking small actions that lead to routine and rhythm. After all, remember teaching your kid how to brush her teeth? It all takes time. And it is all worth it.