I am beginning a series of posts I am titling Parenting by the Seat of My Pants, suggested by my friend Sara, as I use this particular phrase often. :)
A terrible picture of a sidecar.
So, it's New Years again and I have set myself a resolution. I'm going to drink a wider variety of cocktails. It's good to set realistic goals, right? I devoted the month of December to my old standby, the Sidecar, in preparation for branching out next year.
The Sidecar is a drink of mysterious origin, claimed, among other tales, to be the invention of the Ritz Hotel in Paris in the early 1900s, around the time of WWI. It's classic and tasty, and easily made. There are two schools of sidecars. The French school is equal parts cognac, orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier) and lemon juice. The English school is two parts cognac and one part each orange liqueur and lemon juice. I am partial to the French school, myself.
While I am on the subject of realism I want to say a thing or two that has been on my mind about resolutions and evaluation. Maybe it's the Christmas season (it's still Christmas, people) but I hear a lot of my friends coming down pretty hard on themselves lately, as they take stock of the year that has passed and evaluate their goals. I've heard the word "failure" thrown around a bit.
Self evaluation is a good thing. It should be done often. We are fallen people and we live in a fallen world. It's totally realistic, and very healthy to look back on what we have done and see where we might do better. That is how we grow and how we learn. That said, I think there are a few pitfalls we can fall into that can be very discouraging and destructive.
My to-do list is not my God
My to-do list is a random assortment of things I thought I could get done today. It's an estimation. I will be the first to tell you that when I look back on my day and I have accomplished everything on the list, I feel like a rockstar, but a to-do list is a tool for organizing data, not a tool for evaluating people. I don't know, when I make my to-do list, that this is the day the baby will decide not to nap, or the day my oldest daughter will need to have an hour-long talk about her friends, or that my Kindergartener will decide to jump down the staircase in one go and learn why that was a bad idea.
Life is an adventure, and adventures never go as planned. There is no sense beating yourself up that the day took an unexpected turn. Think of yourself more as the captain of a ship. You are navigating an unpredictable sea. It's good to be prepared, but the point is to deal with reality as it exists, not sit around lamenting how much farther you could have gotten if everything had been perfect. Battle your squalls and your sea monsters and revel in the great story this will make at next year's Christmas dinner. It's a better story than "I got the floors mopped," by far.
Separate Self Evaluation and Situational Evaluation.
Some people are overly self-evaluative and see every imperfect situation as a case of "if I had just done better, I could have avoided this." Others are prone to overanalyze situations and never see their own contribution to them. Both of those are a form of pride. I, personally, tend towards both of those bad habits. I have sat around feeling like a failure because I had the stomach flu and my house was a wreck, and I have conveniently ignored the two hours I spent on Pinterest and blamed it all on the half hour I spent unclogging the toilet. Neither one is a helpful option.
Sometimes, I need to have a come-to-Jesus moment with myself. As a Catholic, I find a daily examen to be helpful with this. It's good to look back over my day and be honest with myself about where I dropped the ball and where I did well, and find the places in my day where God was speaking to me.
On the other side of the coin, it's also good to evaluate my work flow. Are there things that just aren't working for us right now? For example, now that Veronica can stand, I need to do another round of baby-proofing. If I've taken on a few extra activities, do I need to reevaluate my meal plan? Those sorts of things tend to sneak up on me, and I can "should" myself all day long about them, but it won't fix anything. Fix the holes in the ship, don't beat your men for not bailing water fast enough.
Think about the long term
In general, are the things we are doing making us better people? Are we growing in wisdom and virtue? Often we judge how we are doing by how happy or peaceful things are in the moment, but that can be a misleading standard. I'm aiming to raise people who can be calm in the midst of the storm, and have a peace that mere circumstance cannot take away. Some days, that means sucking it up and dealing with unpleasant things. It's easy to lose sight, in the moment, and feel like a bad day defines us, but those are going to happen. It's the general trajectory of things that is the bigger concern.
So pour yourself a drink, tell your tales of the year that was and set your course for the new one, with whatever it may bring.