It’s a bit late, but Happy New Year! This year, I have decided, is going to be a year of change. Positive (if occasionally difficult) change. And not just for me, but for the Monsters too. I’ve never been big on resolutions – I accidentally typed revolutions there – and almost left it, since in a way, that’s what is going to be happening in our home. Anyway, I’ve never done the New Years Resolutions thing. My take on it has always more or less been “What’s the point?” You make a decision, and you either stick with it, or you don’t. What’s it matter what day of the week, month, or year it is?
This year there are quite a few reasons I’ve decided to jump on board. The first is the boys – they are both at an age where they understand that one year has ended and another has begun. A new year filled with new moments, memories, and adventures. So, the significance of that was easier to convey than say, a random Monday. The second, and truthfully more pressing reason came to me in the middle of the night when I woke up and couldn’t fall back asleep. I kept thinking about the day that had just passed (not a good one) and dreading the day ahead of me. And like an Acme Anvil, it just fell on my head.
I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t want my family to live like this anymore. The constant bickering and petty battles. The selfish and competitive environment I’ve unwittingly created. The bad habits, the innate laziness. The refusal to acknowledge error in judgement, or just plain poor decisions. That all starts with me. I sat there in bed, in the dark and all I could think was This starts with me. So. Over the next few weeks I spent a lot of time looking around, at me, the boys, everything. I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t like my short temper or lack of patience. I didn’t like that I constantly felt exhausted – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I didn’t like that Daddy and I weren’t really communicating beyond conveying schedules or picking petty arguments. It drove me to the brink of insanity to realize just how terrible the boys relationship is with each other. Nope. No good. I’ve failed. Now it’s time to pick myself up, dust myself off, and fix the mess I’ve made.
I’ve got my list of resolutions, my own person Monster Family Revolution as I have come to think of it. Some of them are big, life changing even and won’t end when this week, month, or year does. Some of them are small, minor changes just to see if I can create a better home environment, experiments, if you will. Others are projects I’ve been putting off or avoiding that I need to finish for my own sake. And here they are…
- Quit Smoking.
- Cut back on booze.
- Ride my bike a minimum 5 days a week, 1 hour per day.
- de-clutter the house.
- Finish editing book.
- Start shopping out book.
- Cut down on caffeine.
- Stop intervening with boys when they argue.
- Enforce New World Order.
- Create allowances and chore system for them to work for the things they want, instead of incessantly whining about the things they want.
- Come up with one single plan to deal with misbehavior and Stick to the plan no matter how angry I get.
- Find a reason to smile every time I feel like doing anything but.
- Stop yelling so much.
- Take 5 minutes per day, per child, to be grateful for at least one thing about them.
- Be honest with myself about myself, and more proactive in my relationships.
And there you have it. It’s hefty. It’s a bit scary when you look at it all written down – and there are basically sub-parts to every item on the list. So really, that’s just the beginning. But change doesn’t happen over night, and I at least know enough to start small. Allow me to break it down for you.
The smoking thing? That’s going to suck. And it’s not a thing I’m putting off for six months, it’s actually happening. Daddy and I both agreed that when all of the cigarettes we had in the house were gone we were done. Well, I’m on the last pack. And then that’s it. Done. Which honestly, will be easier for me than for Daddy. He’s been smoking longer, harder, more than me by a long shot. I’ve already quit twice – for nine months at a time. It’s a crutch for me. An excuse to escape the chaos and have my own five minute time out before my temper blows. This is going to make #13 pretty damn difficult.
The booze thing… that’s going to be hard, and yet it isn’t all at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an alcoholic. But I enjoy a couple drinks at the end of the day when the kids are in bed, and I can let go of the stress of the day. But It’s gotten to a point where I feel like the train needs to slow down before it runs away. So, plain and simple, I need to cool it.
7 months ago I was riding my bike at least 10 miles a day, six days a week. Then we went on vacation, and when we came back I couldn’t get back into the habit. Truth be told, I didn’t try very hard. Which pretty much sucks. I find myself more and more missing that one hour a day where I got to clear my head and really just embrace doing something good for me. I felt better, physically and mentally. I was sleeping better and feeling more rested. I had more patience and more energy. Why the hell didn’t I get back on that bike? For one thing, it was summer vacation, and while getting up before the sun had been an ingrained habit before our trip, it was dreadful afterwords. And I’m lazy. It was much easier to just sleep until the kids got up than drag my behind out of bed at 5am. Which is dumb, because again, I cherish that early quiet time of the day.
This week started the bike routine again for me. Monday I couldn’t – I don’t mean some lame ass excuse came up, I mean I quite literally could not get my bicycle out of the garage (we had another leak under the concrete and all the tool benches were blocking off access to both the bicycles and the washer and drier). By Tuesday I was able to get it out and took off full force like an idiot. First of all, it’s been 7 months, I don’t have the stamina I had before. Second, and most fatal to my plan, I forgot the check the air in my tires, rookie mistake. I made about a mile before I was leaning over the ditch trying not to puke. Yesterday I had air in my tires and was good to go. got about five miles before I hit my limit. Today didn’t happen, primarily because it started raining. I’m motivated, but I’m not motivated enough to ride my bike in the cold and the rain. I’ll do one, but not both. Anyway, this one is important. And probably the key to me being able to get through the rest of the list.
And on to #4. That’s pretty straightforward I think. Get rid of stuff. We have too much crap, and if I’m being really honest with myself, I have a bit of a hoarding problem. I keep the most absurd crap. Tuesday I went through a few of the kitchen cabinets (under the sink, snack cabinet, cleaning supplies, etc), and threw away a ridiculous amount of junk. Yesterday I started on my office area. Went through my desk and often found myself muttering “What is this?!” Today I’m going to try and tackle the rest of my office – of course I have to move it out of my bedroom since most of my shelves and such got moved to make way for the Christmas tree. But enough is enough. Room by room, bit by bit, this crap is gonna go.
Then there’s the book. Last February I decided to take thirty days and finish a book I’d been playing around with, researching and writing on and off for more than two years. And I did it. Yet I’ve been “editing” the damn thing ever since. I’ll go two chapters, walk away, and open it back up three months later. Enough is enough. I like it. Every time I open it back up and start to read it I think I might really have something here. Then I quit. No more. I’m going to finish editing that sucker by February 1st. Work on summaries and query letters by February 15, and start reaching out by March 1st. That’s that.
The caffeine thing is pretty self explanatory as well. I drink too much soda, too much coffee, and I need to cut back, plain and simple. Intervening with the boys however, that’s tough. Over the last couple of years it’s become a sort of running joke – you can’t leave them alone together for more than ten seconds before one is screaming and the other is crying. But it isn’t a joke, and it’s not funny. They just don’t have any kind of solid relationship. And quite frankly, I know a good bit of that lands on my shoulders.
I’m faced with a bit of a catch 22 here. Daddy works from home. If we had an office with a door – we might be having a very different conversation. But we don’t. He works out of the dining room – which he converted to an office when I was pregnant with Mason and we had to move Kaleb into the room we used as an office. So, he works not just from home, but from the center-most point in our house. With no door, and only three walls. Which means when they start screaming and he’s on the phone, I need to put a stop to it – STAT. As a result, over the last couple of years they haven’t learned how to deal with their problems between each other. They run to me. To mediate. To tattle. To argue their case. Is this normal? In any other circumstance I would say yeah, it’s what siblings do. But to this degree? No. They can’t work out their problems because they aren’t given the opportunity.
So I have to find a way to let them deal with their squabbles while also not interfering with their father while he works. I’m open to suggestions here, by the way. Which brings me to the New World Order. There are some changes on the horizon, ones I’ve gradually been implementing even before New Years. But now it’s go time. The allowances also tie into this. Beds made before school each morning. No whining, no excuses, no exceptions. Rooms cleaned up before bed each night. No whining, no excuses, no exceptions. If I find something that belongs to you in a place it does not belong it is mine. You will have to find a way to earn it back. There’s more to it than this, but you get the point. They’re old enough now that chores can be implemented, and if done properly, allowances made. At the moment, Kaleb is dying to have the Minecraft game for my Xbox. I have a jar in the kitchen for him. Each time he completes one of his chores he earns money. When he’s earned enough money for the game (plus tax – he’s got to cover that too) I will happily take him to purchase it. He can then pick the next thing he wants to save for – eventually I’ll be happy if he just saves his money, but at the moment I need a motivator, something he wants badly enough to start forming the good habits. Bonus money is given for being kind and thoughtful to one another (making sandwiches for Mase and Leah when he was originally just making one for himself), doing what is asked of him the first time without mouthing off…. you know, the kind of crap you want your kid to be doing but are just now realizing you’ve totally lost your grip on his behavior. As for Mase, he wants some milk truck from Toy-R-Us…. earn the money kid.
But in the meantime, when they decide to act out (like I don’t know, say taking an entire box of Cheerios and dumping it all over the bedroom floor?), I need a plan of action. A consistent, every time plan of action that I can implement to different degrees depending on circumstance. Don’t ask me what that is. Haven’t gotten there yet. But when I do, I need to stay consistent with it. That’s still a work in progress.
As for the rest of the list – well, I think that says enough on its own. I need to stop focusing so much on what is going wrong and focus on what is going right. I’m hanging this list in multiple places around my house to remind myself that this is key. Smile more, laugh more, yell less, focus on the good, let go of the bad. All that typical self-help mumbo jumbo that people swear by.
I just realized how long this was. Sorry about that. But now the list isn’t just in my head or above my desk. It’s here, for you to read. And help me keep myself honest. I don’t know when I’ll post next, because for the sake of being honest, being a non-smoker probably isn’t going to put me in the best of moods. Plus, I’ve got a book to work on, a house to de-clutter, and a New World Order to enforce. But above all, I’ve got an attitude to change, and this time I’m going to stick to it.