Each new year I make a resolution to make a resolution. And each year I fail, because unless there is a realistic chance of keeping it, it's a waste of mental energy.
Realistically there is no chance of my seeing the bottom of the laundry basket in 2012 because I'd have to open it first and face its dirty secrets. No chance of becoming the beacon of Christian charity that Sunday sermons briefly inspire me to be, because I'm far too fond of a gossip. No chance of me cooking a meal that does not incinerate the Le Creuset and resemble the fall-out of major bowel surgery, because I shall never master the alchemy of food.
But this week, after trying to make a meal out of an elderly mushroom and a stray cheese string, I think I may have found my new direction. I am going to become a better mother. To bolster my determination, I've divided the journey into five easy steps that even I should be able to achieve:
Feed my children
No more frantic 6pm rummagings through the brown juices pooled in the fridge in hopes a meal will materialise. I shall go to the shop at least once a week and buy fishfingers and pasta sauces. I shall be armed, at all times, with factory proteins. One day I might even try out that recipe I once dreamt of involving liver, Ketchup and canned chick peas so that they needn't feel they're missing out on home-cooking..
Play with my children
'Me time' has been seeping out of its legitimate evening confines and now starts around 3.30pm when the clamorous tumult arrives home from school. On a selfless day, I summon the stamina to do their homework with them, then I shoo them shrilly away and retreat to where I feel I truly belong: on the sofa behind a novel/seed catalogue/Twitter home page. Now I've nicked Junior Scrabble from the leftovers of the church tombola and I am going to haul my twosome away from their bedroom pursuits and engage with them, worthily, on the sitting room floor until that well-planned tea time.
Put my children to bed nicely
Currently bedtimes go something like this: I emerge from behind said novel/seed catalogue/Twitter page, realise it's late, harry the children into the bath, harry them irascibly out of it, tell them they've dawdled too much for a bedtime story, then, realising that my Beer Moment is tantalisingly close, bully them into their bedrooms, ask crossly if they want a prayer, gabble through a brief improvisation while they're still getting their slippers off, berate them for the chaos of possessions on their floors and scarper. In future, I shall shut my novel - I mean the Scrabble box - an hour earlier, help them make bubble beards in the bath, read them a chapter of Enid Blyton and settle them gently onto their pillows with a lullaby. I might even make their beds before they climb in. And I won't give a thought to beer until their doors are safely closed behind me.
Talk to my children
So what if the only conversation my daughter can muster concerns french plaits and Emma Watson? So what if my son is only interested in light switches? It's a privilege for a mother to be able to nurture their fascinatingly evolving intellects. So I shall not turn up the volume of Radio 4 or pretend I'm immersed in a life-or-death email. I shall mug up on Emma Watson's off-screen hobbies and on electrical circuits and I shall be an ever-listening ear. Wonder if I could coax an interest in the subject of vegetable rotation planting, though.
Face the Facts of Life
When my daughter suddenly puts down her Sylvanian Families and asks how a Daddy cuddle can make a baby, I shall not make a dash for the walk-in wardrobe and shut myself in. No, definitely, I shall not. I shall shut the wardrobe door and bar all other escape routes. And I shall be calm, rational and factual. Yes, yes, I shall. I shall buy a book with pictures, and we'll look at it together calmly, rationally and factually. Oh, heck, though, what if there's a picture of a ..you know..in it? No, actually, no, no, no! Gentle, sympathetic diplomacy and a basic working knowledge of biology: that's got to be a job for the Vicar!
If you have any reassuring tales of poor parenting please share them here. We corner-cutting mums must stick together. And pop over to Actually Mummy to read more on the bracing hilarity of child-rearing.