Looking ahead

Looking ahead

(Allison Marchant/Flickr)
(Allison Marchant/Flickr)

I prefer the Jewish new year, a time to look inward rather than outward and think about the cyclical nature of ritual, to the secular one, with its don’t-look-back determination. On Rosh Hashanah, we ponder how to be our best selves [1] rather than vowing to become a different person.

And yet the secular New Year calls to us. It’s a marker of time passing. Even once we’ve had our youthful spark beaten out of us by childrearing, we’re drawn to the idea of wearing something sparkly, going somewhere festive, and drinking something alcoholic. We want to toast the future, the unknown. We want to make resolutions.

I asked Tablet Magazine’s readers and Facebook friends to share their vows for 2011.

One reader calling herself “Half a Jew” replied: “Use my time wisely, keep focused on my end goals, play with my cat more, and most important, keep remembering to tell my best peeps I love them.” Amen to that. Especially the playing with the cat part.

Another, named Jennifer, said: “The best new year’s resolution I ever made was to never turn down anything in the new year. Wanna go to a hockey game? Yes. Wanna join me for lunch? Yes. Wanna go on tour with me up the West Coast? Yes. That was the year that I did more, saw more. and experienced more fun than I had ever imagined … and all cause I said ‘Yes’ instead of ‘No.’ ” Love it.

My own parenting resolutions for 2011 are similar. “Try to say yes” is a great philosophy for life. (Stephen Colbert thinks so, too!) That doesn’t mean indulging the kids their every whim; it means aiming for “yes” and, if “yes” isn’t possible, figuring out a more affirmative “no.” I hate playing with Playmobil and Lego, but it wouldn’t kill me to do so more than I do. And if the sight of those little farshtunkiner plastic things makes my heart sink too much, I could offer a different “yes”—Blokus, Quirkle, Perfection, story-writing, tangrams or my girls’ new favorite game, “fake newscast.” It’s an old parenting trick, but one I could use more often: When the kids ask for a cookie, I don’t have to bark “No, it’s almost dinnertime.” I could say, “Yes—after dinner.” There’s a difference, and it’s not just semantic.

But back to reader resolutions. Writing on Facebook, one responded: “Same resolution I seem to make every other day—try to be more patient with my kids and enjoy the time I get with them.” True that, too. But like the traditional New Year’s resolutions about losing weight, going to the gym, and enrolling in an adult-ed class, this one is easier said than done.

For whatever it’s worth, here are my other resolutions:

I want to teach Josie to edit video, not only for “fake newscast” but also to encourage her finally to make her All-of-a-Kind Family [2] movie.

I want to be better at scheduling flute practice; be a more attuned and encouraging listener; find more “performance” outlets (even if that just means making Bubbe to sit on the couch and kvell).

I want to be more religious about date night (as much as we love the spawn, being away from them more would be good for my husband and me).

I want to watch Matilda, Singin’ in the Rain, and Freaky Friday as a family.

I want to expand my children’s food horizons, even if it kills me (and them). Recipes welcome, people!

I want to keep better track of the comedy—you’d think as a writer I’d have a record of the kids’ best lines, but no.

And this summer, I swear, I will open a lemonade stand.

What about you?

Find this story online: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/54631/looking-ahead