Mama Madison: Here be it resolved

Plans for new behavior around the house in the new year

We are no more than a week into 2011 and it's likely my new year's resolutions are already out the window. I am sad to report, this is nothing new. The impossible-to-uphold declarations of exercising more and procrastinating less haven't historically been too kind to me. Day one goes well, day two, perhaps. But resolution dropout always sets in by week's end.

Last year I even tried to make my resolution something I should have really wanted to stick to --I resolved to have more fun. I thought if I could only recapture a bit of my pre-kid social life, everything else would just fall into place. I at least made it all the way through January with that one"lunch dates with girlfriends, dinner dates with my husband, brunch with whom ever I could convince to sneak away. But by February both the baby sitter budget and my waistline couldn't hack it anymore. And worst of all, absolutely none of the family laundry had been folded since the previous year. My intentions were in the right place--unfortunately my underwear was not.

Perhaps my issue has been trying to make personal resolutions. While nice in concept, let's face it: they are pretty easy to drop. A contract between me and myself -- where's the accountability? And maybe I have been thinking a little narrowly. After all, it's not just me who could use a little change for the better. Why, with all the arguing, jockeying for power (in the form of control of the TV remote) and housework grand-standing that goes on around here, my whole family needs a structure in place to ensure peace and facilitate cooperation.

Then it hit me, this year I could plan to go UN-style on resolutions. As Mom, I would serve as a kind-of Secretary-General. The emphasis would be much more firmly on general; I'm getting kind of tired of the secretary thing. We'd have five member states, two superpowers and three developing nations, each representing their own best interests in matters of policy.

The kitchen table could serve as the "floor" -- but I would insist no one actually walk on it. There we would meet at Sunday night dinner to propose resolutions for the betterment of the whole family. Using formal language, I would introduce resolutions like, "Deeply disturbed by the fact that no one, no one at all, ever picks up their towels from the bathroom floor, and bearing in mind that all members of the family have the physical ability to do so, and fully believing that a straight bathroom would make the house a more pleasing place to live, this household strongly upholds the policy of hanging up bath linens at the end of every bathing event." Yes, I realize these proclamations might be non-binding, but one always has hope.

But just as I am about to put our new policy into effect, my husband reminds me home front democracy isn't really my style. I'm more the benevolent dictator. I just don't have the patience to draft a resolution every time we need the dishwasher unpacked, much less manage the sure-to-be constant barrage of amendments over rights to the top rack versus the forks, knives and spoons. If those dishes are clean, I want them unpacked right away, not in "two minutes"--my kids' euphemism for "when this episode of the Simpsons is over."

All this, I guess, prompts the question: Can you really make resolutions for other members of your family? Or am I just better off returning to self-improvement in hopes of home improvement?

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