Time To… Celebrate a Brand New Yearby Suzanne Milne on 03/01/2016
A new year is a little like getting a brand new balance in your bank account… a fresh starting point from which to take action and transform those things that you just found really darn frustrating last year, or that you had hoped you would do, even needed to do, but that just never quite happened.
Sometimes, that feels like a whole lot of responsibility – like paying off the credit cards, finding a new job, moving house or starting an exercise plan. And I don’t know about you, but I just can’t get excited at the idea of any of those things.
Indeed, I read a quote the other day that helped to clarify for me what is really needed… it was from Olympian marathon runner Benita Johnson and she said: “I run my best when I am happy and relaxed”
So instead, my idea for 2016 is to focus on the fun stuff that makes me happy. Sure I’m going to have to deal with all those responsibilities. But I can see that approaching these things from a place of being happy and relaxed is going to allow me to move a whole lot faster and more efficiently than if I am doing it from a head space of being stressed and urgent.
Whatsmore, I know that my children will do so much more of anything I ask them to do when I am coming from a happy and relaxed space. The moment I shift into stressed and urgent, my two little mirrors reflect it right back.
So here’s my list for a happy and relaxed family in 2016.
1. HAVE A PLAN Failing to plan is planning to fail right? So whether it’s having a plan for the morning school run, calm bedtimes or adventurous outings, making a plan is the first requirement. Of course, the moment you add children to the equation, you know that those plans are open to a whole lot of chaos. But the joy of a plan is that you have options available to you.
2. MAKE DISCOVERIES Making discoveries is all about answering questions – so each week I want to explore a Big Question (What makes the tide? How is honey made? When was the wheel invented?) with my children, which will naturally lead us on to other discoveries, whether it is a national park we’ve not visited or a new city, a new way of making fabulous art or a new instrument.
3. GO ON ADVENTURES It might be a camping trip, going to a festival, trying our hand at geocaching, or going out on a sailboat, but an adventure is anything that pushes the boundaries of what’s ‘normal’. Of course, if you go camping every weekend, then having a stay at home holiday could be just as big an adventure!
4. CREATE Whether it is cooking up muffins, creating a potato print, craft, woodwork, sewing or photographs, taking on a project to do the low-tech way is an amazing journey of discovery and leaves everyone with a sense of achievement that gives them newfound confidence and resilience.
5. LOVE It is so easy to get caught up in everything that needs to be done NOW that I am aware of how often I simply miss the moment. Of course, sometimes – with a baby or toddler especially – those moments can seem to stretch out endlessly. But a toddler is soon at school, so I am going to just love the luxury of being able to be there for those wholehearted heartfelt hugs that go through every fibre of a parent’s being. Besides, I know my heart will be all the healthier for having enjoyed the moment rather than wishing it away.
6. LISTEN I had a high school friend, Peter, who died from malignant melanoma this past year. At his funeral, his father talked about how he wished that he had really listened to his son’s passion in life – baseball. Peter had gone on to be something of a legend in his local community for his encouragement of kids playing baseball, and he had an honorary line from his local baseball club. But it really made me stop and think about the tragedy of us as parents willing and wishing things for our children. Our children have interests and passions that might not mirror our own passions, but what is crucial is that we actually listen to those passions and reflect on how we can empower them to find out if this is their life calling. Learning to listen is definitely a critically important skill I am focused on this year.
7. LEARN SOMETHING Martial arts? Chinese? Ballet? Piano? Geography? There is an endless world of pursuits that could become a passion or a hobby for a child. So – having listened to what they are passionate about – it’s our job as parents to help them find a way to really explore that interest deeply by learning from someone who is expert in that field.
8. SHARE Today we are such small family units that we often fail to actually share the moments. We are so busy doing that we aren’t simply being together. So a few ways I plan to ensure we get some true sharing time is that we have dinner together as a family, read some wonderful chapter books as bedtime stories, find songs to sing that really help motivate us as a family. Oliver has a fabulous one that he sings for myself and my husband when we forget to clip him into his car seat that goes like this (sung to the tune of The Supremes ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’): “Stop in the name of love, before you start that car… think it o-o-ver. Think it o-o-ver.” Which means we all laugh and fix the problem before we carry on.
9. PLAY How did parents survive before the advent of television? Of course the downside is that we often end up relying on technology to entertain our children – whether it’s the iPad, the internet or movies. For Christmas this year, Santa bought some magnificent Grimms building blocks that simply beg for architectural adventures, and Oliver has his much treasured Lego Pharaoh’s Quest set that requires movie making story telling every single day. So this year I am going to schedule in play time with each of my kids every single day. How precious is that! And what a great time that is to listen and discover what creates joy for them as an individual.
10. EXPLORE This is Oliver’s first year at school, and it is a great opportunity for us to start exploring a topic in great detail. I will follow his lead, but time to explore alphabets, number and subjects that I never did quite get a grip on first time around!
11. CELEBRATE It doesn’t have to be big or flashy, but I want to ensure that we get to celebrate all the major days this year, from Valentine’s Day to Father’s Day and each and every birthday, not to forget Easter, Christmas and even some celebrations that aren’t on the regular ‘Western’ schedule. After all, why miss out on celebrating the mischievous Year of the Monkey or Diwali’s magical festival of lights? After all, these celebrations are all about family and community and ways that our lives are bound to one another.
12. RECORD Having a record of all the daily magic is crucial – there is nothing sadder than beautiful photos that never get printed out. So this year I am turning all those tens of thousands of digital photos I have on at least half a dozen hard drives into books that record the wonderful adventures we’ve had each year since my son was born. I also want to create a ‘wall of fame’ – photographs of our family and friends – so we’re surrounded by the people we love. Plus I’m on the case with making annual art books that showcase the work my children so passionately create throughout the year. Being able to look back on all those memories not only reminds us of the joy and happiness we experienced at the time, it also reminds us why all those responsibilities that we take on every day are worth the trouble!