Joy. And baking. And some other stuff.

I tend to do two things around the new year. First, I get a little introspective and shit. As 2011 wound to a close, this took the form of existentialism as contemplated after reviewing one’s old journal entries. Specifically, I read a bunch of shit I wrote on Live Journal back in the day. From January 3, 2005:

Everyone talks shit about resolutions, and I didn’t plan on making any. I already go to the gym and know I’m probably never going to eat better and I’m not terribly bothered by any of my vices. Something about the rush of New Year’s Eve, though, made me re-think things a little. We were up and out and getting so much done and it wasn’t all exciting but we were living and doing and I like that, so I decided that we should resolve to be People Who Do Things.

That’s vague but it’s not. There’s so much to do here — there are mountains to hike, trails to ride, museums to visit, parks, picnics, the symphony, temples to visit, classes to take, movies to actually see in the theater, people to meet for a beer, restaurants to discover, friends to make, books to read — there’s just exciting stuff everywhere.

And well yeah, that’s nice. I’m not sure we ever became People Who Do Things, but we did change in other major ways. For example, in December 2006 I went on and on about how I never wanted to have a kid. You know what’s awesome? Going almost your entire life without ever wanting to have a kid to changing your mind at just about the last possible minute. The result is that you go into kid having with no expectations and no years of hope and aspiration and knowing just about nothing, which for me at least means every day is a new surprise and totally fucking — if I can use a word nobody uses any more but I kind of have to — rad.

In life, if I can get a little Ditka for a minute, there are some things I just know, like, deeply, to the core of my being. For example, eating meat is morally wrong. (Note: This is true for me. I don’t judge others.) Working out really hard really often is really important for both physical and mental health. Of all the religions, Buddhism makes the most sense and gives me something to strive for even if I’m one of those people who’s always asking questions and never really accepts anything. I don’t know where these things came from — I didn’t learn them from my parents or directly from anybody else I’ve encountered. They’re just kind of there, as part of me, for whatever reason.

Although I know absolutely nothing about parenting and am, as the mother of one relatively easy-going toddler, pretty amateur hour about the whole thing, there’s one thing I know, the way I know the things I really know. Children, early on, are pretty joyful. They want to experience joy as often as possible. It doesn’t take much — maybe some armpit and neck tickles or saying “Marco!” “Polo!” “Fish outta wawa!” in the bathtub. Or maybe a cupcake every now and then after you decide occasional homemade sweets are okay. Or whatever.

That brings us to the second thing I do around the new year, which involves, like everybody else in the world, making some sort of resolutions and/or goals. I try to keep these relatively quantifiable and therefore capable of having success or failure measured. (Bake at least one awesome thing every month. I love baking, which manages to be relaxing and inspiring at the same time. I’ve got a calendar and I’m gonna use it. Run some specific distance but only if it doesn’t make me totally miserable. Buy no leather. Read at least one book in 2012 — seriously I have no time and Sports Illustrated comes, like, every week.) But some vague ones always manage to sneak in. (Improve my photography. Try not to buy much stuff unless absolutely necessary. Really let myself dive into hippiedom; everybody knows I’m going to do it one of these days so I might as well get on it.)

The parenting-resolution/goal I have is quantifiable and vague, and it’s going to sound really stupid written out. I want to (at least) try to experience with Soren at least one moment of pure joy every day.

Holy crap, that sounds just as ridiculous as I thought it would, like some forced bullshit you’d hear at a blog conference that everybody would annoyingly tweet about for like 10 minutes and then promptly forget. But I don’t want fake, manufactured joy. I want the kind of joy that happens when Soren and I are sitting at the table after dinner and we look each other in the eye and bust out laughing, the kind of bliss that happens when I take him across the street and pull him around the snow in the sled. These are simple moments that don’t require any fancy equipment or anything. Ingredients: equal parts me and him. That’s it.

I’m convinced — completely and deeply and by the way I hate adverbs — that the more joy your toddler experiences now the better his life will be later. This is probably dumb, but it’s one of those things I believe, like vegetarianism and slacker Buddhism. Now, when the joy comes so easy, I want to make sure Soren experiences every last possible drop of it. It’s going to be harder later, when he’s a long-legged (I trust he will take after Ben in this respect) teenager in his room wearing baggy or skinny — who knows — jeans listening to music I don’t understand (although truth be told I probably will unless it’s boy bands or Insane Clown Posse because in addition to dressing like a college student I usually have the musical taste of someone many years my junior). My job as his parent is to make sure he experiences the most possible joy as a child, and while I’m solely capable of making it happen I’m totally gonna do it.

2012 is going to be awesome.