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New Year's Resolutions For New Parents

Don’t you think it’s about time for you to resolutionize?

I mean, you seem to be lah-dee-dah-ing into 2014 without having resolved to up your game.

Here you are, a young parent, just starting out, in need of so much improvement. And I see no evidence of a list.

I cannot in good conscience stand by.

You are going to be a better person in the New Year.

Or, at least, you are going to stop driving me crazy with some of the ways you behave as a parent.

Whhhhoah. Relax. This is loving advice. I'm not coming from a condescending, meddlesome place! Not that place at all! It's more the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do place, next door. As a veteran hiker on this parenting trail, this isn't my first rodeo, and I've picked up more mixed metaphors and grammatically questionable sentence structures than you could shake a stick at.

And I’ve got plenty of time and energy to offer you novice-parenthood tips because, of course, I am not wasting one second making any resolutions for myself.

I need no resolutions, on account of how I’ve made peace with the beauty of an imperfect life as a good-enough mom.

You, however, should not make that sort of peace. Not yet, anyway. You are so totally not there.

Perhaps that surprises you. After all, in the opening sentence of his book that changed the story of child rearing in America, Dr. Spock wrote: "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do."

That isn’t wrong, exactly. Your love for and intuition about your progeny keep you right on target. Occasionally. But how you communicate, sometimes? Oy.

That changes, now. We’ll start with three easy tricks. Master these maneuvers of refined discourse, and you will make parenting magic. More importantly, you will avoid sending me over the edge, which is also a benefit to society, given that society is kind of tired of hearing me howl like a banshee.

1. You hereby resolve to stop discussing diapers or what's inside them with anybody not on a need-to-know basis.

When you are new parents, and not so new parents also, something chemical happens to your brain, or gremlins sneak in overnight and steal all your conversational filters, I’m not sure which. The upshot is you suddenly believe any random person with whom you are chatting about anything at all would be ever so eager to enjoy this excretory discussion with you. Over dinner, even. That is, however, not true. If I am not responsible for changing your kid's diaper at this juncture, and if I am not a pediatric professional inquiring as to the particulars, then spare me.

2. You hereby resolve to stop finishing your instructions to your kid with "... OK?”  

When you say: "Sweetie, you may not dump cream-of-wheat on the cat," then do not finish your command with "... OK?" Yes, OK is just a word, and yes, I get that by using it as a question at the end of a command you don't really mean it as a question but just as a way to soften your authoritative tone and demonstrate some understanding of and compassion for how much your sweetie adores dumping cream-of-wheat on the cat. But authoritative is good. And words, in fact, do mean what they mean. By tacking on the "... OK?" you are literally asking your child's permission for your child to consider behaving. You are turning your firm statement into a feeble request. A request to which your empowered child, reasonably, can and will say "nope." Which leaves you, where? I’ll tell you where. With a porridge-covered cat careening out the kitchen door, the tasty hot cereal going to waste, and parents fighting over why the kid refuses to follow simple age-appropriate rules.

If I do nothing else on earth, and that would appear to be likely, I would like to eradicate the epidemic of "...OK?" Starting with you. OK?

3. You hereby resolve that when you are within earshot of your kids you will stop labeling them by their traits.

The next time we bump into each other at the park as you carry your pride and joy you will refrain from explaining to me, loudly: “Oh, he won’t talk to you — he’s shy,” or “This one’s my picky eater,” or “She’s totally the wild child." Whether or not you believe in self-fulfilling prophecies, you apparently forget that most kids are equipped with working ears and with minds that process what they hear. Oblivious and stubborn as they sometimes seem, children are actually all about giving the grownups what they want. Whenever they hear themselves defined as shy, or picky, or wild, then that becomes a more vivid badge of their identity and they will strive to align themselves with it.

All of those characteristics, by the way, are fine by me, as are their opposites and everything in between. The point is, try to give your kids room to find their own way and don't get invested in defining them by one possibly transient feature.

Still need to get the labeling urge out of your system? Great. Hire a babysitter, go hang with your besties, maybe toss back a cocktail or three, and apply kid labels to your heart’s content, as you vent together about your freakazoid little sons and daughters and about all sorts of parenting indignities… such as crazy strangers on some kind of high horse who think just because it's a new year they can blast in out of nowhere and order you what not to say in terms of your own personal private family like it's any of their damned old-lady beeswax.

Well, then. Some people are clearly not ready to listen to the universe. Whatever. I hereby resolve to give you something to listen to.

Howling like a banshee commences in 3... 2... 1...

This program aired on December 31, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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