IV. Goals for Your Children
1. What are ways you’d like each of your children to grow in the following areas?
Addie has found some real joy in competitive swimming. In 2014 I'd like to encourage her to continue with this. I think it will really help her in so many aspects of her life to be a part of our local swim team. Henry loves baseball. If we can just be supportive, encouraging parents to both of them (and I say this, knowing I am in no way a sports mom), that would be a pretty good year.
I'd like to see Addie take a little bit more responsibility for her own assignments. She's better about this, but every once in a while, we still have an uh oh, I have a huge project due tomorrow freak out night. I'd like to see her try to learn some time management skills.
We're working on confidence with Henry. To anyone who knows him, this probably seems like an unusual goal for him. He's happy all the time and seems well-adjusted. But he's doing this thing lately where he will ask us a question about something he has to do--say, eat dinner, or feed the dog, or get dressed for school--and then when we answer him, he'll ask the same thing three more times just to make sure. I'd like to see him feel a little more confident that he knows what he's doing. We've been working on it.
They're both (currently) doing okay. The hardest thing for me as a parent--after potty training them, which was ridiculously difficult and frustrating--is to watch them navigate the difficulties of social circles. It's so hard to know that your kids will get hurt and that you have to let them make their own choices so they can grow up to be normal, well-adjusted adults. But there you go. So right now they're doing third grade and sixth grade, and those grades come with their challeges. In 2014 Addie will also start junior high. I just hope we can be her soft, comforting place to land at home.
The older the kids get, the more they notice the world around us. And they're good at asking about it. I think the best goal I can have is to try to be a model for them of the values that are important to us as a family. I can be honest when they ask questions, and I can gently guide them toward being kind people.
A really specific goal I have as it relates to their learning is to try to help them find more things to read for pleasure so we can strike a better balance of reading for fun instead of reading because they have to. They do it either way, but I'd like it to be something they don't see as a chore.
This is the same goal I had here last year, but I think it was a good one so I'll say it again. I want to try to continue to show both kids that I trust them. There's a lot of pressure from the world at large to shelter kids--and while I think there are plenty of things that I need to protect them from, I think there are also lots of opportunities to let them show me that they can be trusted. In the last year I was really pleased when I gave them a little bit of freedom. I hope to create opportunities for them in 2014 as well.
2. How will your children be educated this year? What are some resources you’d like to explore to help your children develop intellectually and academically?
They will be at the same wonderful school they've been at since Addie was in kindergarten. This is her last year there, and in the fall she will move to the same junior high that Eric and I attended. Henry has a few more years there. We can continue to support them as they navigate the difficulties of the upper grades, and I think the best thing we can do is make sure we know what's going on with them at school. The kids I see who are in trouble at the high school often have parents who have been assuming for a long time that everything was getting done.
3. What are your children’s strengths? How will you help them use these well?
Addie is incredibly kind. When teachers talk about her, they're always mentioning how she helps kids in class who don't understand, and how good she is with kids who might not fit in. She's so good with younger cousins, her brother, and animals. I want to make sure I encourage this sensitivity, but sometimes she ends up feeling like she gets taken advantage of. I want to give her the tools she needs to express how she's feeling. I don't want her to always feel like she has to assume the role of caretaker because she's good at it.
Henry is great at putting things together, but often doesn't get enough hands-on time. There are so many digital distractions in our house, and so many ways for him to put that skill to use in a virtual world. But really, he enjoys sitting down with a tub of Legos, too. I want to encourage tactile expression of that strength. He has such a math mind, and he is such a builder like his dad. I want to give him opportunities to make things and to figure out how they go.
4. What are your children’s weaknesses? How will you help them overcome these?
Addie holds on to things that are difficult until she ends up in tears. Obviously, getting her to talk to me before things are in crisis mode is the way to go. Henry has an incredibly guilty conscience. He confesses things to me all the time--which is, I think a strength because of how it enables us to work through whatever it is that's eating away at him. But I want to give him more assurance that he doesn't have to feel bad about himself, even when he makes mistakes. We all do.
V. Money Matters
1. What is one specific area of progress you’d like to see this year in your financial health?
I'm very happy with the saving that we started to do as a couple last year. We were finally able to make some decisions to make us feel a little bit more secure, and I'd like to be able to continue them. Not rocket science. Just saving for things we want to do in the future, and paying down debt.
2. How is your current income? In what ways can you make this increase?
Current income is good. Just got better, thanks to the units from my MFA. But besides that, I can pursue my freelance work. It's not really about the money that brings in, though. It just makes me happy.
3. How much debt do you have? In what ways can you eliminate a sizable portion of it (or all of it) this year?
A lot of debt. Like, a mountain of debt. All of it for education. We can keep payin' it down, man. Just keep payin' it down.
4. How is your savings account? In what ways can you save more money this year?
We have one now. I feel like this is the most grown up thing about me. And last year instead of spending all of my "spending" money each month, I started dumping that in a savings account, too. Funny how it starts to add up. Guess Dad was right.
5. What are some of your long-term financial goals? In what ways can you make progress on them this year?
Now that we're both out of school after six years, we just need to pay for what we borrowed. Plain and simple.
6. Are you giving regularly? If not, in what way can you give financially this year?
Not regularly, unless you count the hundreds of dollars I spend on my classroom each year. And after a particularly difficult year trying to teach within the confines of some strict supply laws in California (we can't require kids to bring pencil and paper anymore), I've given a few times to other teachers' projects on donorschoose.org. It feels more important than ever to give to education.
7. What is your plan this month for starting progress towards better financial health?
Keep on keepin' on.
VI. Relationships Outside the Home
1. In what specific way would you like to grow in relating to your friends this year?
I'm in transition with friends, right now. Not with any of the actual friends, but a bit with the geography. I know that change tends to sort things out, and that change makes me feel a little uneasy. Things coming to an end with my MFA program means that I won't be making the trek down to Palm Springs quite as often. And yet I'm left with this group of amazing friends, some who I've become closer to than I ever thought I would, but many who live far away. This year is certainly going to be different. Not bad, just different. And my goal is to be deliberate in strengthening relationships--both those with people far away and those who are close to me--that strengthen me.
2. What are some ways you can be of service to your immediate community?
My goal is to look for ways to be a part of the literary community in Sacramento. There has to be one. I need to find it. Join it.
3. Who are some specific people in your life that can use some encouragement? What will you do to encourage them this year?
I felt the most guilty in the last quarter of my MFA program when I couldn't see the people in my family who were hospitalized or sick. At least, not as often as I felt like I should have. I know I'm still going to be busy, but I want to try as hard as I can to be there for them in 2014.
4. Who are some people in your life that you admire? What are some practical ways you can positively use their influence in your life?
The people I'm admiring right now are the writers who are writing: getting the words down on the page every day. I want to bring dedication and excitement about words to my life. To make space for it. To play and be creative, to sit and be quiet. To read great things that other people write. All of it.
5. Are there any damaging relationships in your life? What will you do this year to make these relationships better?
Hmm. Yes. As ever, I hate ending with this question. So negative! I think the relationships that drained me the most in 2013 were the ones that were so predictably predictable. Like, there is a reason that some people always act the same way. We all do, right? We do what works for us, and what gets us the attention we crave. I know I'm guilty of it too. But sometimes playing in to someone else's need means you're (read: I am) giving up too much self. That's not okay. In 2014 I hope I'm better at setting boundaries, at not being that person myself who complains all the time without taking steps to improve the situation.
And in light of this "one little word" idea for resolutions, I present you with my one-word resolution for 2014 (2011 was peace, 2012 was imagine. 2013 was love), my one word resolution for 2014 is:
Happy New Year!