Well, ladies and gentleman, it has arrived. A new year. 2014 is upon us. Like all years, it will be accompanied by a host of opportunities, changes, joys, disappointments, losses, gains, challenges. It represents a fresh chapter for each of us, a moment to embark on a new or altered path if desired, to formulate a (cliché alert!) list of New Year’s Resolutions—even if we only haltingly perform them. In the spirit of fun, and with the hope it offers a glimpse into the universe of your humble “Virtue and Mischief” columnist, I offer my own list below. I do so in partial jest, with no particular order of importance in mind, and fully realizing that any significant change I hope to accomplish can only be done with the grace and assistance of the Almighty.
I resolve to holler less (and hug more). To someone who lives outside the confines of our home, this must surely seem easy, a piece of low-hanging fruit, as it were. I assure you it’s not. I think it’s fair to say that I am by nature more of a hugger than a yeller, but it’s hard not to raise one’s voice when under sustained, simultaneous verbal or behavioral assault from multiple munchkins. “Please” and “I’m sorry”, emitted from the larynxes from said munchkins, ameliorate the effects of the assault, but still: One of the things I enjoy most about the time I spend at work is that it offers a respite from the constant, fingernail-on-chalkboard-effect of the amigos’ screeching “DAAAAAAADD!!!” To my discredit, I tend to screech in return. And it’s always more effective to eliminate one unwanted behavioral pattern by replacing it with a more desired one—hence the hugging part of the equation. It’s probably best I confine this resolution to the home context. I don’t want my two female office partners to slap me with a harassment suit.
I resolve to model more consistently my appreciation and love for my wife. Because I am a dolt, it came as something of a shock to me when Krista recently requested I demonstrate a greater awareness of, and appreciation for, her contributions to the family. “Among other things,” she pointed out, “Luke especially needs to see that. He needs to see you treating me with love and respect so that he’ll learn to improve the way he treats me—and the women in his future.” She’s right. All the children need to see it, not (solely) as some sort of artifice designed to improve their behavior, but as evidence of my sincere, tangible, real love for my wife. As the old saying goes (attributable to John Wooden, I think), the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
I resolve to read more (worthwhile) books. I have a stack of unread books on my bedside table, their ideas and insights dormant (at least as far as my involvement with them is concerned), their language unappreciated. I want to read them. I really do. But I am almost always too mentally exhausted from reading and revising hideously-written material at work, or too physically exhausted from chasing/playing with/disciplining/etcetera the amigos to engage with intellectually stimulating reading material in any appreciable way. After you’ve stared at a computer screen and wrestled for eight hours with dangling modifiers, a plague of unnecessary commas and semi-colons (one writer I admire refers to these aptly as a “pestilence”), incoherent sentence structure, and turgid prose, the last thing you have the energy for is more reading material…even if it’s well written. But I will find the time and energy to do precisely that. I’ll start with the Bible and work from there. My gray matter, my soul, and my sanity will be the better for it.
I resolve to write “2014” on all checks and other documents requiring a date beginning January first, and to send my “Virtue and Mischief” column to the Editor more than 12 hours before it goes to press. Enough said. I’ll report back on my progress 12 months from now. Happy New Year, Darke County. Be careful out there.
Timothy Swenson is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.