On the last evening of 2019, I sat down with a new journal at an attempt to make a resolutions list. I abandoned this practice over five years ago as I found it superficial and shallow. I had developed a habit of setting unrealistic goals about what I thought I wanted for myself and my life.
Somewhere along the way, in my parenting journey, I started to embrace the unknown. Controlling is in my blood and I’ve wanted to abandon its grip on me. Resolutions seemed like a way to hold on to control.
On December 31st, about an hour before midnight, I sat with pen in hand and wrote from the heart. The result was a long list of positive statements about my life and those that I love.
I stated each wish as if it were a reality. My smile grew bigger and bigger as I filled the pages.
I believed them. I believed I had an abundance of wealth to cover all of my bills, like in the past. I believed I would be seeing Brandi Carlile in concert. I believed my family was well. I believed I have a literary agent. I believed I have another published book. I believed I am happy and successful in my creative jobs.
I poured positivity all over the pages in my bird and tree lined book. Yet, the hardest one to write and to believe was:
I am not annoying to my kids.
I am told, on a regular basis, that I am annoying from people whose opinion really matters to me, my girls. I used to try to rationalize with them by saying: “I have not changed, you have!” I told myself this is a normal phase that pre-teens go through. I worked on not taking it personally.
Parents are put in a position to be annoying by sheer title. We have to say no all too often. We correct them when they fail to live up to our expectations. We squash their dreams when they have a brilliant idea. And we don’t let them stay up late enough or have enough sugar.
All of this rationality and acceptance of my new role as a tween parent kept me from looking deep within. When I made a goal of not being annoying, I thought about the ways I could achieve this.
Thinking of the ways I am annoying isn’t hard to do. I instantly know when I say and do something annoying to my kids, the second the words leave my lips. I am goofy in a way that I’ve always been with them. Therefore, my statement of “You have changed, not me,” became eye-opening.
Little kids like goofy behavior. Teenagers do not.
I have been continuing to use funny voices and say silly nonsense phrases even though the laughter stopped a year ago. Noted to self.
I have continued to remind them of basic hygiene and routines for self-care. They have different health goals now and for the most part, they know when to do them. If they forget to brush their teeth, they generally remember on their own while in bed during our goodnights. Noted to self.
Singing along in the car is not cute anymore and likely has never been.I have been forbidden and I accept this loss of singing rights. I remember telling my mom to stop singing in the car, especially when my friends were around. I get it. Noted!
When items are left out in the living room or plates are not taken to the sink after meals, I don’t need to add years of grief to my words. Just a polite reminder is sufficient instead of “why can’t you remember to do this without me asking?” Noted.
Starting on January first, I bit my tongue and paused more before speaking. We had a hike planned and meals out, giving me many opportunities to squash my old-mommying-habits. I was surprised to discover I said about 50% less than I had the urge to. It wasn’t so much about saying things in a different way, than it was about saying nothing at all.
No one needed to know the information I wanted to share. Nothing felt like it was missing. The result was more spontaneous fun with less interruptions. I was humbled and confused. When the time came for me to share some of my wisdom, I changed my intended method about half of the time and each time I did so, I was received well. For the times I reverted to the old ways, such as: “if you get sandy, you’ll have to brush it all off before you get into the car” I got to see those famous eye-rolls again.
The days went on with loads of opportunities to be less annoying and I felt sad each time I realized I had the power all along to help our relationship be more harmonious. There are plenty of times when I feel resentful that I am making these changes while my children appear to have a license of free will to do and say anything they want, even if it is rude and disrespectful. But then I remind myself that they are good kids with a good heart and are getting it right most of the time.
I am grateful to have girls who have an opinion and know how to voice it. I want them to share their feelings and to feel validated and heard. I want them to know I am here and they can always come to me when they feel hurt or guilty.
I know that if I am perceived as annoying, this is less likely to happen.
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden
Freelance writer & editor
Written on January 7 2020