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Resolutions and the quest for self-improvement

Alex Miller

No doubt you’ve noticed that the changing of the last digit of the date has had little bearing on anything other than, perhaps, your waistline. But then again, no doubt everyone’s already hard at it on the ski hill, the exercise machines and the calorie-burning activities of everyday life. Somehow, that accumulation from weeks of Christmas cookies, eggnog chugging and buttery sauce consumption will start to come off.This New Year’s, I was right back at my slimming devices, flinging the 4-year-old onto the couch inside a blanket (the “Flying Burrito”), chasing the older boys down bump runs, shoveling snow (or at least directing the 14-year-old in the proper technique, which can be tiresome) and negotiating transactions at the returns counter at Wal-Mart (undue frustration, scientists tell us, can burn up to 247 calories per hour).I took it upon myself to consult with some of the older kids about resolutions. The 11-year-old hadn’t heard of such things, and seemed at a loss as to how he could possibly improve on himself or his situation. I offered suggestions, he shrugged his shoulders, I resolved to try again next year.The 12-year-old seemed more intrigued by the notion. She suggested she could try harder in her dance classes, work to become better at snowboarding and strive for world peace by aiding in the negotiation of international treaties of cooperation (OK, I added that last bit). Although they’re often joked about, I still believe resolutions are helpful if done realistically. I also think the notion of suggesting to children that they think about their lives and lots with an eye on how to make things better is good practice for the years ahead. The 4-year-old’s response was to fling a rubber lizard at the ceiling, but for those at or beyond the age of introspection (which my own informal survey now places at 12), it’s not a bad idea at all to acquaint them with the idea of self-improvement.So accustomed are kids to being measured against the standards of others (from their parents and teachers to their peers and even testing boards) that there has to be power and value in wondering how they might improve themselves. I can’t recall ever doing much of this as a child, but it seems to me that, as a parent, how am I going to fuss at them later about their poor life decisions if I can’t point to having urged them to be proactive about it now?Actually, I find it fascinating to talk to kids about their futures. Our 14-year-old in particular has some interesting ideas about where he’d like to be – even if he’s somewhat vague about how he’ll get there. He envisions a day when he’s 26 (his “magic” age), still single, far enough out of school (Oxford, no less) to be gainfully employed (at what we don’t know) and flush with cash. His place will be a Spartan dwelling with lots of modern furniture and brushed aluminum; the focal point of the whole thing will be the entertainment system. A Ferrari (or similarly overpriced vehicle) sits in the garage.I don’t know if he’ll ever get to this place, but I cheer him for trying and for having something resembling vision. It’s a form of resolution-making, and one I can’t recall having much to do with when I was a teenager. I more or less thought the world would catch me up in its current and I’d get to where I needed to be. While that may be close to what happened, there’s a lot to be said for shipping a rudder earlier in the voyage. As for my own ’06 resolutions, I resolve to inventory them just as soon as I can clear my ’05 to-do list. Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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