As 2013 skips (limps?) into that metaphorical sunset leaving behind only memories, we face another new year full of possibilities. And as we consider this “beginning,” resolutions of things to accomplish are written down, discussed, kept secret, or turned into a PowerPoint presentation to be shared with everyone. Most of these resolutions will soon fade away, like the traffic at my gym around February, only to be brought back as 2015 peeks its head around the corner.
I discussed this with Chloe (age 8), and she was adamant that resolutions get it wrong: they cover too long a time frame and should be more of a daily thing. So with that in mind, I present to you . . .
Chloe’s and Steven’s Daily Do List for 2014
Daily Do 1: Keep perspective. Things in life are very seldom completely one way or the other. Most events, people, or moments are a shade of gray. You very rarely have a 100% good or bad day; you have days full of good and bad moments all along the gray scale. And when you consider that there’s always someone that has it worse than you do, it helps you keep perspective on how blessed we all are.
Daily Do 2: Remember that your opinions aren’t facts, for you or for anyone else. They are opinions. They are neither right nor wrong, but some are more informed. If your opinion hurts, mocks, or takes away someone else’s ability to live a fulfilling life, then your opinion should evolve. But that’s just my opinion. (And Chloe’s.)
Daily Do 3: If there’s something that you want to do that betters your life or someone else’s . . . do it. We make things more complex than they actually are. So this year, let’s put aside the excuses, the fact that it’s hard, or any other reasons we come up with that keep us from doing something and do it. You want to get in better shape . . . then do. You want to sign up for a dance class, write a novel, quit smoking, spend more time with your kids, have more fun, then do. No matter how hard something is, no matter the millions of excuses you come up with not to do it, it all comes down to a choice. And that perfect day that you’ve been waiting for to do those things? It’s today. Right after you finish reading this.
Daily Do 4: Take the focus off yourself and put it elsewhere. Self-centeredness starts the day we’re born and continues in some form throughout our entire lives. So this year . . . put your focus elsewhere. On others, on a good book, on making the world a better place, or on whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. You’ll find that you are happier and accomplish a lot more this way.
Daily Do 5: Don’t forget that everything is temporary. That wonderful moment you shared with someone? Temporary. Your kids being kids? Temporary. That really terrible day? Temporary. Those great moments in your life? Temporary. Everything becomes a memory at some point. In an instant, the moment is gone and the present becomes past. Remembering that on a daily basis is not a negative thing: it’s a call to make the most of whatever time you have. There are billions upon billions who would love to be in your shoes today.
So those are mine and Chloe’s “Daily Dos for 2014.” Use them as you will.
By the way, Chloe wanted to add four more daily dos but that would have made nine. So I’ll include them here: Brush your teeth, be nice, eat a cupcake, and have fun every day. If you do all those things, plus the five above, on a daily basis (except for perhaps eating a cupcake – maybe once a week for that one), well . . . who knows what might happen?
More specifically, she ran for one of two student council representative spots for her 3rd grade class.
She told me on our walk home from school one day. Her 2-year-old sister was in the stroller pointing out every house that she saw by saying “This
. . . a house,” and Chloe was on her 14th story about her day only three minutes into our walk. It was delightful and quite impressive. Apparently, 3rd graders don’t have to breathe when they’re telling 14 stories in a row.
Then she told me that she was running for student council.
I would like to say that I instantly said something like “That’s awesome!” or “Cool!” or even something remotely clever. But I didn’t. I was silent.
Chloe, of course, was unaware of this silence because she, as if alone on stage with the spotlight upon her, was performing the world’s greatest soliloquy about . . . well, I wasn’t really sure. But I was glad she kept talking because I was lost in my own thoughts about what she just told me. And how I didn’t want her to run.
Because if she ran, she could lose. Then she’d come face to face with the reality that sometimes, no matter how hard you work or how much you want something, you still don’t get it. And then Chloe would become an adult without any hopes or aspirations because I let both get crushed in the 3rd grade. If that sounds overly dramatic, know that I’m aware of that fact and I, at the time, was fully embracing my overreaction. At that point, unknown to Chloe, I had decided that I wasn’t going to let her run. I was going to protect her from the possible disappointment and hurt by not allowing her the opportunity to be hurt.
And right before I opened my mouth, I remembered a time when Chloe was learning to ride her bike. She was pretty awful, as we are with anything that we’re learning, and as she rode down the trail, she lost control and went into a ditch. I ran to catch up and found her crying against a tree. I helped her up and retrieved her bike. She had gotten pretty scraped up. After some tears, hugs, and water, I asked if she wanted to walk her bike home instead of riding it.
She looked at me as if I were crazy and said: “Daddy, you always said the best thing you can do when you fall off your bike is to get back on.” And then she did. She biked all the way home. And she still talks about that moment to this day.
So I wondered, why was this student council thing any different? Because it wasn’t about her. It was about me. And my insecurities.
When I was a kid, and even as an adult, there have been times that I chose to stay on the sidelines because I was scared of what might happen if I took a chance and put myself out there. I just didn’t want to lose, be embarrassed, or be found out as a fraud. Now that I’m older, those fears, though present, don’t dictate my life like they used to.
And as parents, one of our most important jobs is not to burden our kids with our “issues.” (Of note, I don’t consider my passing on of my extreme dislike for bread-and-butter pickles to Chloe a bad thing. They are terrible. Long live the dill.) Kids will develop enough issues on their own over time, so it doesn’t seem fair to give them ours too. Maggie and I, as parents, had agreed a long time ago that we wouldn’t do that. And now, presented with the opportunity, I had to make a choice.
As soon as Chloe finally paused for a breath, I told her I was proud of her and wished her good luck in the election. That day, she came home and started putting her campaign together. She decided on her platform, made a sweet poster, and got her speech ready. Throughout the process, she got increasingly excited and ran a really good and strong campaign. Then the vote came.
She did not win.
After school that day, she was disappointed. As I held her hand, we talked about how she had done her best and that sometimes you’re not going to come out on top. And that’s okay. She told me she congratulated the winners and then asked if it was all right if she was sad and maybe even a little jealous. I told her that of course it was. Then we talked about how many times my plays have been rejected, and that the best thing to do is to keep working hard and putting yourself out there. She smiled and then told me something that made me happy and extremely proud.
She told me she was looking forward to running again next year.
She had climbed out of the ditch and was ready to ride again. She really deserved the ice cream she got that night.
Here it is. Steven's blog, where his thoughts about things are revealed. Good luck.