I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I wrote a sassy little essay about all the anti-resolutions I plan to chase this year instead of the traditional ones. I vowed to gain weight and make less money, stuff like that. But the truth is that I can’t face the new year without at least a little self-analysis and the intention to be just a little bit better. For me, this year, it came down to two things: read more and complain less.

They complement each other well, and I think help me to be a better parent.

Keeping Up With the World

Before I started trying to make a living writing, I was an accountant, a tax accountant (I know!). It was often uninspired work, but it offered a good deal of mental down time. Rote offices tasks needed to be accomplished, simple emails needed answering, files needed shuffling. I used all this time (as well as during my commutes to and from work) to listen to the news on the radio or online. I felt pretty well informed.

Then I started writing, which for me tends to work better when I concentrate. I’ve realized that I don’t really understand what is going on in Iran, or just how abortion was holding back the health care bill. For goodness sake it took me two days to find out about Tiger Woods. Now that’s a tragedy.

So I’m vowing to read my news. And there’s something more engaging about reading than listening or watching. It gets inside my brain and makes connections. This leads to my second resolution.

Really, You Have It So Bad?

I tend to complain. I have that luxury. So do you. Really, look around. How bad do you have it? You there, reading from the comfort of your heated home, or sipping a four-dollar latte, or enjoying the complimentary public library computers? What’s to complain about? Plenty, I know. Believe me I know. And maybe I won’t even complain less, but maybe I’ll just be a little more aware of my complaints and how relatively ridiculous they all are considering where I live, what I’m allowed to say in public, and the quality of housing, healthcare, and food I have access to and am able to provide my children.

And yes, there will still be playdates, menus, PTA meetings, colds, allergies, outgrown jeans, too-expensive shoes, Webkinz, dog treats on the carpet, dirty dishes, tiny and not so tiny lines, failing eyesight, cars that don’t start, husbands who don’t understand, friends who betray, hangnails, dust, flabby thighs, chipped nail polish, and stupid bosses.

But there are also smiles and hugs from those kids we love. And books, as many as we want to read.

Don’t worry I’ll still complain. Maybe I’ll even start to complain about complaining. Would you like that?

Happy New Year.