I started them in 2011 for two reasons. First of all, I felt compelled to take my new responsibilities as a parent seriously. The whole point of starting this blog was to hold myself accountable to reflecting intentionally and openly about the changes and growth that occurred in my life as a result of becoming a father. It seemed that if our society has an explicitly ordained moment in which all people are supposed to be doing just this very thing, then I should probably go ahead and do it in the culturally expected way.
The second reason is that it was a cop-out. Look at those posts; they’re short, succinct, and mostly devoid of real depth. In fact, last year I just linked to several previous posts, as if I were just recapping the things I’d already learned. Moment of confession, dear readers: I enter every new year not with a sense of hope and expectation as if I’d been given a clean slate with which to create positive change and renewed direction. Instead, I enter it with a feeling of exhaustion and overwhelmed resignation. You know that line in John Lennon’s depressing Christmas song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” when he sings, “So this is Christmas / And what have you done?” Yeah, that is how I feel, except in the future tense. It’s a new year, and what on earth am I going to do? This doesn’t energize me; it wearies me.
I feel even more weary this year than I have the past three. I know that some of this is the transition I’ve put my family through. 2012 was a crazy year: I interviewed for several jobs, left my old job of four years, sold a house, moved to a new city (which is more than thirty times larger than the city I left), started a new job, and uprooted my entire family. We left our friends, church, and community behind; our daughter left all her peers; my spouse left her job, which she has yet to replace. Damn, I’m tired just writing this paragraph. So I guess I have a right to be worn out and low on new-life-change energy. Seems like I have expended more than my fair share in the last eight months.
I’m also wondering if we have hit an exhausting phase of parenting. Every phase is exhausting, of course. But this toddler thing is kicking my tail. The bedtime battles, the fits of sheer raging will, the rapidly developing capacity to detect and then trigger every one of my emotional flashpoints. Maybe once we establish ourselves here, build a new community, develop friendships with other parents, and feel more rooted in our lives I will have the resources to weather these toddler storms. But by then, she’ll be on to some new phase. This constant game of changing and adapting to the growth of my child is wiping me out; never mind the changing and adapting I’ve had to do in the rest of my life.
So this year I’m not going to pretend in some cutesy off-hand way to get comfortable being awake in the middle of the night (which is far less romantic when your child is three and has been provoked by “the cold monster” than it was when she was six months and needed soothing). I’m not going to pretend to learn lyrics to songs she likes or get into cartoon characters she loves only for her to decide in February that she doesn’t like these things anymore. (She’s not into Thomas the Train anymore. Or Dora the Explorer. Seriously, folks, she’s three and a half and she’s already been into and grown out of Dora!) I’m also not going to make silly resolutions to do things that happen all the time because it somehow feels like a self-important way to celebrate the cuteness of my child.
If I am going to make any resolutions this year, then it is this one thing: I’m going to be less hard on everything. On family, on my child, on my expectations for how I think the world should order itself around me. But mostly on myself. If I were to take a resolution seriously, it would be to institute some kind of lasting change in my life, something that I would dedicate energy to every day of the year. People want to be more happy and less anxious. I’m pretty sure I could see that goal come into view over the horizon if I could practice the simple grace of feeling less shame over how tired and messy my life is.
Last night I promised my little girl that if she slept through the night, I would get up early and carry her into our room so she could sleep in the bed with us. So for the first hour of my day I laid in the dark next to her little figure, hot and bony against my side. I could smell that her pull-up was wet and she wheezed in my ear and my arm fell asleep and I had to roll her off of me. It was still mostly beautiful. Sometimes your life can be cramped and exhausting and smell like pee and still be the sweetest thing you can imagine. That is the grace I resolve to seek in 2014.