Friday, January 3, 2003

Married With Children

I'll get lighter with laughter in the new year

By Patricia Gallagher Newberry

A teacher at my kids' school pointed a video camera at my nose last month and asked for my new year's resolutions.

Without time to ponder, I quipped, "Same as always. Lose 15 pounds."

After a two-plus-week holiday break with the kids, with plenty of time to ponder, my resolutions are more about parenting than poundage.

Accordingly, in 2003, I resolve to:

1. Play more with my children. I will play Trouble and Uno, both gifts from Santa. I will introduce the older two to Scrabble, my favorite. I will Cadoo with them, too. I will even play the dreaded Candyland more often. I will not, however, be sucked into playing Barbies with the 4-year-old. There are not enough hours in the day to attend to both Barbie's wardrobe and the clothing needs of the five humans in the house.

2. Laugh more with my children. Every year (and, at times, every hour of every day), I vow to be more patient with my children. This year, I vow as well to use more humor on them. I will amuse grumps into grinners. I will joke fussy eaters into trying new foods. I will give my children noogies when they fight. I will tickle them when they are uncooperative. I will work so hard to fill our home with mirth that mourners will say, literally, "She died laughing."

3. Teach my children new skills. Frances, at 9, is clamoring to sew. We will sew. She is also clamoring to knit. While not my strong suit, we will try to knit. A.J., at 7, remains bike-shy. We will bike. Beatrice, the Barbie-loving 4-year-old, is working on her ABCs. We will keep working.

4. Restart star charts. We had good luck in months past charting and rewarding good behavior. We will reintroduce the incentive system, adding new age-appropriate tasks to earn rewards. I stand ready to turn over ownership of the dishwasher, toilet brush and pooper-scooper to any child eager to pick up a few stars.

5. Plan for the future. Early this year, I will force myself and my husband to take a hard look at our finances. We will discuss what we've saved for the kids' education. We will discuss how we can save more. We will discuss how quickly law enforcement officials would catch on if we persuaded the kids to take part-time jobs to start contributing to the family coffers.

6. Lower the volume - of voices, of work, of busyness, and of laundry, if I can convince the kids that clothes they wear for two hours are still clean. I will seek peace in my home and in my heart by turning down the volume of all stressors, the dog excepted.

7. Read more - to my kids, with my kids, by myself and for myself. I will not read junk, whether it comes in the mail or in the form of a new "Little Critters" title. Given the choice of falling asleep in front of the TV or in front of an open book at night, I will set a good example and choose the book more often.

8. Stay in closer touch with friends and family. I will call my siblings more often, if only to teach my children that one day they might consider their brother and sister friends. I will call their grandparents, too, to teach them not to neglect their mother and father as they grow older.

9. Take better care of my husband. Or rather, I will urge my husband to improve his own health with more exercise, less food and more than five hours of sleep a night. I've already warned him that I'll be plenty steamed if he keels over during the half-marathon he's registered for next month and leaves me a young widow with three kids.

10. Take better care of myself. Likewise, I vow to be healthier so as to take good care of everyone else. That means I'll need more sleep and a better diet, too, along with plenty of long walks and long baths. If that helps me shed a few pounds during the year - as I work toward more important parenting goals - I may be able to drop my longstanding "15-pound resolution" by 2004.


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