The first few days of January usher in a traditional wealth of advice on how to make the coming year the best one — ever.
The finest in fitness garb predictably goes on sale, beckoning me to take seriously my perennial resolution to get into better shape. While I generally take a pass on the fancy fitness wear, for the last 14 years or so I have gobbled up the advice that comes out on parenting, recognizing I need all the help I can get.
Thus far this year I’ve learned that loosening the leash and allowing kids to take risks will actually ensure their future safety (go figure), and that there are intrinsic benefits associated with calmer, gentler parenting (sounds good in theory). While the advice is inviting, I sometimes find myself befuddled when I start mixing the instruction. Loosen those apron strings and, poof, there goes all resolve to be calm. Still, I keep reading because this time of year does give us a unique chance to reflect, and to recognize there always are opportunities to improve.
One of the more interesting items I received recently was a video post passed along by a friend in which a woman guaranteed she could add 7.5 minutes to my — or any — life. The recommendation came from a nurse so it possessed a certain aura of authority. I guessed, too, that there may be some fun attached, so I bit, listening to a 20-minute video about how to add 7.5 minutes to my life. I confess the math associated with the exercise still eludes me. While the life-lengthening instruction would be impossible paraphrase, what in intrigued me most was the fact that the advice was borne out of an in-depth analysis of the things people regret most when on their death-bed.
Perhaps not the most uplifting of topics, January generally touches me differently, too, because melancholy inevitably seeps in with the celebrations. January is the month in which I lost both of my parents, albeit many years apart. Dad took his last breath just hours after we entered the new millennium, and mom had passed 10 years prior, 24 years ago tomorrow, to be exact.
Of course, it seems impossible to believe that much time has passed as many memories remain vivid. Perhaps I’ve worked more at remembering since I have become a parent, hoping that historic glimmers from my past might light my way, along with the surplus of advice for the new age.
I don’t recall my mom discussing regrets while she was ill, although I remember distinctly her calling out several times on one of my last visits that she was “glad she went.” When I asked where she had gone no answer was forthcoming, but sure enough just moments later she would again call out, rather robustly, “I’m glad I went.” Mom was heavily medicated for pain at the time, but her proclamation still echoes in my mind. She was not a big traveler so I was not sure about the destination she was imagining. Her words, however, seemed far less about regret and more a reminder to travel a path that goes places one day we’ll be glad we went, even if it is metaphorically.
Thinking about these events together made me wonder if looking for profound solutions to the complicated issues that keep cropping up while parenting two teens may not be practical.
So I’ll keep it simple and leave the intricate analyses to the experts. I don’t think I’ll ever regret one day saying I’m glad I loved, so I’ll just try to love them some more. It may not help me find that extra 12.5 minutes, but hopefully this resolve will make the remaining moments along the way just a bit warmer.
Cindy Bargell is an attorney and mom who lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll keep it simple and leave the intricate analyses to the experts.