By Laura Simon

I’m not a fan of New Year’s Eve. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up until midnight, unless you count being woken at 12:01 by someone’s enthusiastic fireworks display and mentally chiding them for their disregard of the human need for sleep before rolling over and falling back into it.

It’s not that I don’t like staying up late (I do), but more that the whole It’s-A-New-Year-and-What-Will-You-Do-To-Make-It-Amazing thing seems to trigger all my anxiety. I have no problem making and setting goals; my problem is I’m discovering that being awesome and checking boxes isn’t what my kids need. And frankly, a year of surviving the struggles of being present is a whole lot more overwhelming than any professional or workout goal sheet you could give me.

I am task-oriented to a fault. Do not get in my way when something needs to be done, whether it’s a work project, dinner, or a tiny person’s hair. Those of you with kids (basically, all of you) are laughing right now, because obviously children are the enemy of task completion. They don’t want their hair braided into two equally beautiful braids. They want to look like Pippy Longstocking and spend that ten minutes telling the worst knock-knock jokes known to man.

Or is that just my kids? PS. What train does the Tooth Fairy take to the North Pole? The Molar Express. I’ve heard that one fifteen times today. Send help.

Anyway, all that pressure to make today awesome and savor every second turns me into a whimpering heap of mess on New Year’s Eve. I cannot promise that every one of the coming 365 todays will be awesome. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of them will best be described as survival. And on some of them, even survival will be in limbo.

I cannot commit to matrixes or specifics. I cannot promise that I’ll put down my phone every night at 8pm. I cannot promise that we’ll eat organic every night or that we’ll never go to McDonalds. I cannot promise that I’ll read quality literary bedtime stories to everyone or supervise every single brushing of the teeth.

But I can say that 2019 opened my eyes to the importance of presence. On the very last pool day of last summer, I took a small step toward being present. It was more of a jump, really. After three months of resisting the (very persistent) calls to go off the diving board, I finally did. It was every bit as disorienting as I remember it, my ears popped, and no, I’m not sure my swimsuit remained firmly in all the places it should. But I did it. And my kids were so delighted that I jumped off three more times. And then the lifeguards blew the whistle and put me out of my misery for the winter. Bless them.

So I can’t promise anything, except that this is the year I’ll try to say yes. I’ll try to play more, even when work is easier to do. I’ll go off more diving boards, and down the scary tube-like water slides that scream “hypochondriac”. I’ll put the computer down and play the board game. I’ll at least consider picking up the video game controller and playing a round of Minecraft. (No promises, there, folks.)

I will try to say “yes” more often when tiny hands want to “help” cook. And whenever possible, I will watch the clock less and read one more chapter and maybe even run a football play.

Because at the end of this year – and even this decade – my kids probably won’t care whether I kept the house tidy or washed my face every night, but they will remember the times I put aside the to-do list and just existed in their world. Even though sometimes it feels like a lot of wasted time, that time is the best gift I could give them.

So count me in.

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