Sunday, February 5, 2012

Update on Phrases of the Year 2012

Winter sunset in California
Where has January gone? It has sailed by, with warm sunny days, cold nights, and a lot of time in the kitchen and portable locker room car. January 1st, 2012 we made some New Year's resolutions of sorts. Each person in the family chose a word or phrase for the year. After a little more than a month, our phrases are still resonating with us.

Listen; my word of the year. I'm consciously, more deliberately, listening to my kids, my husband, and my own inner voice. I'm listening to podcasts; This American Life, Fresh Air, RadioLab, The Splendid Table, New Yorker: Fiction. I'm wearing earrings that read "in one ear" on one, and "out the other" on the other. I'm listening to some new music, some sent to me on a CD by my friend Nicole. I'm still trying to figure out what all the songs she sent me have in common, it is quite the eclectic mix. My secondary word, polka dot, has informed my recent purchase of new socks. They will not get mixed up with the boy's atheltic socks and they won't be tempted wear them either.

My youngest son's phrase, shut up, has been challenging for him. He is a classic extrovert and his thought processes are verbal. Learning to curb this verbal effluence is challenging for him, both at school and at the dinner table. His brothers take great joy in telling him to shut up on a regular basis. He has been very good-natured about it and has become a bit more aware of when his constant stream of information and random thoughts are not so welcome. It's a hard task for a kid whose brain works so quickly and makes so many connections. Rather than telling him to shut up, I prefer to gently remind him that sometimes his thoughts should stay in his head and not come out his mouth. He is eleven years old right now, and I find myself wondering what he will be like in the grunting, non-verbal early teen years. I think he might skip right over that phase.

My middle son chose the word participation. He has already gotten straight to work on this one. He is in eighth grade, and his school has a tradition of putting on a musical with everyone in the grade. Mandatory auditions were held just after the new year. The students are asked to give a preference of a leading role, a supporting role, a member of the chorus, backstage, or set design crew. His first inclination was to be a member of the chorus or backstage crew. He has never been in a musical before. In fact, I haven't even heard him sing since his voice changed. But rather than play a palm tree in the background, he took a risk and chose to audition for a supporting role. Much to his shock and surprise (and to be honest, fright) he was cast as the male romantic lead, Daniel Beauxhomme. I was very surprised too, and I am unreasonably excited to watch him perform on stage.

My oldest son's phrase is stand out. It was inspired by a conversation he had with a teacher. As a freshman at a large all boys high school, I think he has already done an amazing job of standing out in a highly competitive environment. He is a cross country runner and a member of the freshman soccer team, takes several honors classes, and has a 4.0 GPA. Right now he sees himself as an athlete and a musician, and standing out means maintaining his commitment to sport, school and music. I'm curious to see how his phrase influences him in the next year.

My husband's phrase, mathematical balance, is still a mystery to me. I don't understand it or relate to it, or aspire to it. I don't like to balance a checkbook and I avoid Excel at all costs. He is the master of accounting and spreadsheets and balancing. He declined to elaborate on if or how his phrase is working for him so far in the new year. One way I can tell you it is working, though, is the fact that he is fourteen pounds lighter than he was on January first. He has committed himself to a lifestyle of healthier eating which has had some dramatic effects. And hallelujah the snoring has gone away, which is something I am happy not to listen to. It really is worth all the extra time in the kitchen!

One of the unexpected, and wonderful, results of our New Year word or phrase is the family conversation it has generated. It's something we touch on more often than I would have expected, usually at dinner. We are supporting each other and already celebrating some achievements. Each person's word influences other family members in a subtle and interconnected way. It's an interesting touchpoint that (as corny as it sounds) does seem to highlight the strength of family, which is a welcome thing when you have teenagers.

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