Am I the only one who feels as though setting resolutions feels a little too much right now?
To be honest, I feel that every year. Resolutions and choosing a word and all that “new year, new me” talk has never lit a fire under me. But this year especially.
The new year arriving in January has always felt a little off to me. Especially if you’re a parent to little kids; we still have the same routines, same nap schedules, and same mealtimes to adhere to. The kids return to the same grades with the same teachers after winter break. Also? We live in Minnesota. It’s hard to feel like anything has changed with an almost unbroken wall of white outside our windows and a temperature that will hover around freezing for at least the next two months.
Then, of course, there’s this year, where things feel the same most of all. When we’re closing in on nearly a year of working from home, schooling from home, social distancing, wearing masks, and hibernating from other people. In some ways, we’ve been living the concept of “winter” for months now.
This year, it’s enough for me to remember how to get us all out of the house at one time. I’ll need a crash course in packing lunches five days a week when in-person school begins again. It’s enough, without resolutions, for me to continue to keep things going: to meet deadlines, to shovel the driveway, to cook regular meals. It’s enough to continue to stay in touch with people in creative ways, whether through social distancing at the park or virtual happy hours over Zoom. It’s enough to enforce screen time limits on not only the kids, but also myself.
No, this year, of all the years, calls for a softer and gentler approach.
Forget resolutions. Let’s set some rituals.
To go all English teacher nerd on you, a ritual is defined as “any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.” Yes, please. I love routines anyway, so please let me plan out my weeks and days with “regularly performed patterns of behavior in a set manner” and I will live my best life. While a ritual could be mundane enough to be boring (teeth brushing comes to mind), I think instituting rituals into certain parts of our week can be life-giving instead of draining. And this year, more than most, I think we could use things to liven up our days, to give us something to look forward to, and to break up the monotony of our weeks.
I’ve found that I’ve already set some rituals for my family in the past year, many of which I hope last long after this pandemic is over. Here are some of the routines in our house; maybe you have similar ones or can use them as a jumping-off point to create some rituals of your own!
I started making pizza on Saturday nights sometime last fall. Since all three of my kids recently dubbed our homemade pizza “better than candy” you better believe I’m leaning all the way into that one. We’re going to keep rolling out that dough, topping it with too much cheese, and looking forward to pizza night each and every weekend.
Sunday Family Clean Up
Annoyed with my eyes bouncing from one disaster to the next in our house (LEGO piles in the playroom, Pokemon cards in a bedroom, stuffed animals strewn in the hallway), I instituted a Sunday family clean up. Every Sunday morning before lunch for about 30 minutes, everyone in the family pitches in. The kids report to mom or dad for a job and we all tag-team it from there. Do the kids get distracted by the things they’re supposedly cleaning up? Yes. Do the kids get as excited about this as I do? Absolutely not. (Cue all the whining.) But it’s getting better. And I breathe a little bit easier knowing that even if the playroom is trashed by Wednesday, Sunday is coming.
Weekend Outside Time
On the weekends, we get outside. Okay, most days we get outside. But on the weekends we try to get outside for at least a couple of hours together as a family. This usually looks like exploring a new playground or park, though these days you can usually find us out ice skating or sledding.
Friday Date Night In
This is one my husband and I have been doing for years. On Fridays, we make an easy dinner for the kids, put them to bed a little early, and order takeout for ourselves. We catch up over a real dinner that neither of us has to cook, without distractions like spilled cups of water or whining over eating vegetables. We usually catch up on a movie or a comedy special after. It’s delightful. It’s date night but in sweatpants and no makeup. I look forward to it all week.
Here is one I want to make more space for in my days. When I feel my energy and capacity draining during the mid-afternoon slump (aka that how-is-it-only-2:30-when-I-feel-as-though-I’ve-lived-through-an-entire-day feeling), I want to be better about recharging with a cup of tea and a snack. Or a smoothie and a snack. Even better if I’m able to sit down with it for a solid 15 minutes. Something that helps me hit the reset button and gives me a boost for the rest of the day.
I have several nighttime rituals. This time of year, I usually have a cup of decaf tea. I brush my teeth, wash my face, and apply a facial toner, oil, and a night cream. Most important of all, I cuddle up in bed with a book. I’ve read a book before bed as long as I can remember. It now functions as a signal to my body that it’s time for rest. (Unless I’m in a book I can’t put down in which case I will stay up too late and pay for it the next day. Still worth it.) In fact, the whole family is in on this one. We always read a chapter or two to our kids before tucking them into bed, and my first graders often sit up with a pile of books before they fall asleep.
These are just some ideas. Other spots to incorporate rituals could include morning routines (this very non-morning person needs all of your ideas), after school time, and weekly family nights. Maybe you have rituals connected to the seasons of the year, like planting flowers in the spring or going on leaf hunts in the fall.
This year I’m marking the new year without a word of the year, without resolutions, without new, overarching goals. Just routines and rituals. A slow and gentle approach. And a relentless bit of hope.