Life with Liz: A new kind of resolution
I was cleaning out the kids’ backpacks the other day. While I usually make them keep up with things on a weekly basis, they were long overdue for a serious dumping out and sorting through. While I was picking through crushed artwork, handwritten notes (who knew they even still did these things the “old-fashioned” way), and 15 different sets of mismatched gloves, hats and long-lost sweatshirts, I came across a neatly rolled up scroll among E’s things.
It wasn’t marked “top secret,” and since the kids knew I was going to be cleaning out their packs, and she hadn’t jumped at the chance to get anything important out of it, I took the liberty of snooping. It turns out it was a lengthy list of “New Year’s resolutions.”
E is a big fan of lists. She has a long way to go until she’s accomplished at checking items off her lists, but her lists are legendary and thorough. I’ve found “to-do” lists for sleepovers that included “sleep” and “annoy brothers.” Her Christmas list, while about 35 items is too long, is nonetheless very helpful for Santa as it includes colors, brands and sizes, and any other specific details necessary to search on Amazon, if Santa needed to do so.
So I settled down with great expectations as to what she had planned for herself in 2019. First on the list, “Have a party for 9th birthday.” Since that’s the birthday that’s on the horizon for her, I mentally checked that one off for her. “Go to fourth grade” was next. Since her grades have been stellar, and she is in no danger of being held back at this point, that one also seemed like a no-brainer. The list continued “have a great year,” “be awesome,” “go to Kalahari with friends,” “finish moving and have an awesome bedroom,” “help people,” “swim” and my personal favorite, “eat.”
For the most part, all the items on the list were things that she is almost guaranteed to do, or things that will happen, whether she resolves to do them or not. In fact, there was really only one item on the list that will really be a challenge for her and might not happen, and that is swimming a very specific time in a very specific event that has a lot of meaning to me and has been a running joke between us for years.
Intrigued by a list of “resolutions” which, for the most part, don’t require much effort on her part, I asked E how she came up with them. I prefaced my questions by saying that usually people make resolutions about things that they want to fix about themselves or things that they need to work at, and tried to explain the term “resolve” to her.
In typical E fashion, I got an eye roll. “Mom,” she sighed, clearly exasperated that I didn’t get it already, “why would I want to do stuff that isn’t fun or that I’m not already good at?”
I tried to reason with her. “Maybe you could challenge yourself and find other things that you’re good at,” I argued.
“But, Mom, it seems kind of silly to try new things when I already really like the stuff that I do and I just want to do more of it,” she said, with all the confidence of an 8-year-old who has already figured everything out.
“Well, like your resolution to eat,” I said. “It seems to me like that’s kind of a cheat. You know you’re going to eat. Every single day. So, at the end of the year, did you really accomplish anything?”
“Yes, I know I will eat, so I can check off that box next year and I kept my resolution,” she said, clearly not seeing my point. I was determined, so I pressed on.
“What about if you made a resolution to eat a new food every week,” I asked, “that way you would both eat AND try something new.”
“Well, Mom, I’m pretty sure your resolution is always to try to make us eat new food, so I don’t have to make that resolution, too,” she answered. “I don’t think you can really take credit for keeping a resolution if it’s someone else’s.”
“Well, obviously. That’s why I didn’t make it, I’m just going to EAT everything you make,” she said.
After about 5 more minutes of pointless arguing, I started to ask myself why I was berating an 8-year-old about her choices in New Year’s resolutions. Maybe she was on to something. First, I should be glad that she has so much self-confidence that her list essentially boils down to “keep doing what I’m doing because I like it and I’m awesome.”
Second, she’s clearly happy with her choices, and believes strongly that she can accomplish them. I know my resolutions to make healthier choices and lose weight and all the standard “things I wish I could change” about myself won’t make it past Jan. 15. If I check in with her on July 1, chances are she’s going to have quite a few of those boxes checked off already and a good shot at seeing all of them through until Dec. 31.
I haven’t been the biggest fan of resolutions, but maybe that’s because I’ve been making the wrong type. I think between now and Jan. 1, I’m going to ask my 8-year-old lifestyle guru for some suggestions and work on a new list of positive attributes and experiences that I can actually make happen. I hope a few of them include the words “awesome” and “eat.”
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.