Viva la Resolution!

I'm launching into the future a bit here. This is my January 2011 "Back Talk" column for Houston Family Magazine. I know it's not even Christmas yet, but I thought I'd put it out early for a couple reasons: One, there's a prize at the end and two, I'm announcing something in my Christmas post later this week that indirectly relates to the timing.

Viva la Resolution!

January is widely recognized as the time when we make personal resolutions aimed at improving ourselves in some way, shape, or form over the course of the new year ahead. By the same token, February is the less-celebrated month where we say, “Eh, close enough,” before then returning to our old habits and dismissing said resolution(s) like silent ill-timed flatulence that no one in a crowded elevator is willing to own up to.

Resolutions can be measurable, like for example, aiming to lose fifty pounds before bikini season. Others might be more subjective such as say, determining to be nicer to the checkout clerk at Wal-Mart even though that person refuses to bag groceries according to the categorized grouping of items as you’ve consciously arranged them on the conveyor belt—frozen food, refrigerated meats, refrigerated vegetables, refrigerated liquids, pantry cans, pantry boxes, pantry glass, toiletries, cleaning supplies, guilty pleasures, miscellaneous. Seriously, is the logic here that hard to understand? Do you know how aggravating it is for me—uh, I mean for shoppers to discover that the ice cream has smooshed the bread, and now I—uh, they have to make multiple trips to the freezer and the pantry. Can I get an “amen” here, people?

Like most, I’ve made my share of New Year’s resolutions, even achieving success in some instances, though, I’ll admit, many were “gimmes” that could be viewed as more than a little self-serving. A typical list from a while back, for instance, might read something to the effect of: 1) Blast abs five times a week. 2) Improve self-esteem by stocking wardrobe with more designer labels. 3) Work on vanity issues.

However, since becoming the full-time at-home parent, my compilation of annual resolutions, like most things in my life, has undergone some changes. Here are but a few.

1. I will keep the house cleaner: Rather than ask, “Who does this belong to?” whenever I find discarded Happy Meal toys; ripped up, old art projects; broken crayons; dried up magic markers; and containers filled with contents unknown, I will instead just throw them away. For some reason these items are always important, yet they always manage to end up relegated to some out-of-the-way place for me to discover… again. 

2. I will ensure that the children eat healthier: My plan for success here includes hiding their Easter and Halloween candy, and later eating it all by myself when they aren’t around.

3. I will follow through on disciplinary actions: No more allowing the kids to play video games or watch TV when they are grounded just because it keeps them occupied when I need some peace and quiet. 

4. I will help build the children’s self-confidence: I’ve already signed my stepdaughters up for acting, singing, dance, and harp lessons using their Christmas money. Experts claim these sorts of activities really boost a child’s confidence. And as the girls’ biggest supporter, I will guide their rise to fame and oversee all those complicated financial matters that go along with this.

5. I will inspect the kids’ bathrooms everyday: One question I don’t really want the answer to is, “How long have you children been using this commode when there’s no toilet paper?” I probably wouldn’t have thought to look had the strong, mildew-like odder emanating from pile of rotting, damp washrags tossed up under their bathroom sink not aroused my curiosity after choking me from ten feet away. My bad.

6. I will expose the children to more culture: “I don’t care if your mother plays Katy Perry and Ke$ha for you kids when riding around in the van, listening to NPR will make you a more interesting person.”

7. I will drink less around the children: This will alleviate my wife and I of those awkward moments at parent-teacher conferences when we are asked why one of our girls told the class during Drug Awareness Week that her parents were addicts because “they drink a lot of beer and wine every night.” If anything, we should drink more.

8. I will empower my children by using more forms of creative encouragement: Take cleaning their room for example; the girls have improved a great deal in this area. Before, they used to stash their junk wherever it was easiest to hide. Now, though, the girls have demonstrated they can put things in their proper place without me hovering over them ever since I started placing scary adult Halloween masks under their bed and in other likely hiding spots.

9. I will stress to my children the importance of conserving natural resources: Analyzing our utility bills, I’ve determined that the biggest drain on our electric and water comes from the six-thousand loads of laundry we do in a week, an amount that could be cut by 75% if the kids would stop changing outfits ten times a day. Despite not being dirty in the least, each of these ensembles ends up being tossed in the hamper. Ironically, the lone article that should make it into the basket daily, yet somehow never does, is their underwear. 

10. I will do a better job helping the children with their homework: Actually, I do help them with their homework on a regular basis, but when I am tired, errors can slip by, like the accidental use of expletives. Leaving out a certain letter from the word “shirt” can add the right amount of gritty realism that a third-grade, sentence writing exercise needs; but asking a second-grader to list all the words that rhyme with “luck” is just begging for trouble. 

11. I will make my needs a priority: It’s a well-known fact that ignoring your own needs will subsequently leave you too drained to tend to the needs of others. With this in mind, I went out and splurged on a fancy, padded toilet seat. This will now allow for more quite, Ronnie-time, in a comfortable, relaxed sitting where my legs won’t fall asleep as I enjoy the tranquility. 

12. I will seek treatment for Parental Tourette Syndrome (PTS): I’ve been suffering from this neurological disorder for several years now, but the symptoms are getting progressively worse of late. For me PTS most often manifests itself when I go into public alone after long stints being cooped up with the children. Midsentence in a conversation with another adult, I find myself jerking my head in the other direction and spontaneously yelling things like, “Stop touching that ceramic vase!” and “Get down off of there!” even though none of my kids are present. It’s a serious condition. Thankfully several new treatments available, and I’m going to take advantage of them.

Reviewing my above list of goals for this year, I feel optimistic about the future. It’s possible I may even make it past February. Viva la Resolution!

* * *

Now, about that prize. But first a little background. One of the most recognized New Years traditions is the dropping of the ball in New York City's Times Square. But along with this there's another famous local attraction known as the Wishing Wall where people write down their wishes and goals for the coming year and a small piece of paper which is then collected up and dropped along with the confetti that get's tossed out on those celebrating in the square. Of course, most of us can't make to the Big Apple so, Carnival Cruises has set up a site (click here or on Facebook) where you can share your own hope for 2011 which will also be thrown in with all those filled out at on the actual wall.

In conjunction with this, Carnival has a New Years Eve party package they are looking to give away. It actually contains some fun stuff--a bunch of party hats, a couple Champagne flutes, a bottle of sparkling cider, a big Carnival beach towel, and a book by celebrity life coach and bestselling author Robert Mack, Happiness from the Inside Out: The Art and Science of Fulfillment I guess it's meant to help you stick with your New Years resolutions or something. Anyway.

To get this package simply leave a goofy resolution of your own in the comments section of this post from now until December 27th and my wife will pick out the best one to determine the winner who will be announced in an update to this post on the 28th.

Disclosure: Carnival did not threaten to make me walk the plank unless I wrote this post. They did send me the giveaway package and I promptly drank all the sparkling cider upon it's arrival in the mail. 

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