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The Full Suburban: New Year’s Day tradition is a time for reflection

The Ditto family’s “Year in Review” has become a tradition they look forward to each New Year’s Day.  (Courtesy)
The Ditto family’s “Year in Review” has become a tradition they look forward to each New Year’s Day. (Courtesy)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

It’s no small secret in my household that I don’t much care for the month of January. It’s dull, buttoned-up and completely devoid of fudge. I really don’t see what there is to like. If you’re one of those strange creatures who is into goal-setting and achieving, I’m sure my opinion of January is difficult to understand.

You see each new year as a blank page upon which to write the story of your best life, a new leaf, a fresh start. No, thanks. If I could still be locked in my bedroom eating tree-shaped peanut butter cups while watching Netflix and wrapping presents at 2 in the morning, I would.

But alas, time marches on, and the new year has delivered its cold slap in the face to all of us, willing us to take stock of our lives and see where we can improve. As my then-12-year-old daughter Jane said last year, “It’s only January 1st, and I’m already tired of trying to be a better person.”

However, there is one thing about January that I truly love: Each New Year’s Day, I gather Logan and the kids into our living room for our “Year in Review” ceremony, which isn’t really a ceremony at all, but it just sounds more official to call it that.

Each person receives a slip of paper with their name at the top, followed by a list of prompts about the previous year: favorite movie, favorite thing to do, favorite toy. And then the prompts get a little more in-depth: “I get sad when … I feel happy when … One of my biggest accomplishments was … Something I am excited about for the upcoming year is … This year, I will try to …”

There really isn’t much room for writing on these sheets of paper, so none of the answers is particularly in-depth or lofty, but they are definitely amusing. In 2017, 8-year-old Henry’s sheet read: “I get sad when I do not get to play Xbox. I feel happy when I do get to play Xbox.”

Six-year-old Emmett’s big goal one year was to learn how to draw a fish. Jane decided that she wanted to focus on eating more candy. And Lucy was determined to learn how to drive without injuring anyone. Shoot for the stars, kids.

As fun as it is to fill out and share our answers from these Year in Review sheets, it’s even more entertaining to read what we wrote from the year before. The papers from the previous year get stored with the Christmas decorations in a “time capsule” of sorts (a cardboard box wrapped in Christmas paper that I had left over in 2008 when this whole tradition started).

They don’t see the light of day from the moment we put them in the box on Jan. 1 until the following year’s ceremony, and it’s always a good laugh – and sometimes a moment for actual reflection – to read about what was so important to us a year ago.

Last year, then-14-year-old George had written down that one of his goals was to simply “remember.” “What was that referring to?” I asked, probing for clarification. “Was it like a spiritual thing or more of a pragmatic thing, like ‘I want to remember to do my homework’?”

He thought for a minute before responding. “Well, I kind of forgot to do it, so I don’t really know.” It’s obvious that we don’t do this Year in Review to set any hard-hitting goals. It’s a sentimental thing mostly, but also a way to slice off just a small piece of the goal-setting pie that can sometimes feel so intimidating.

This year, I came across two questions from religious leader Michelle Craig that I’m going to add to our list of prompts to help pinpoint some manageable goals: “What am I doing that I should stop doing?” and “What am I not doing that I should start doing?”

While I think those are excellent questions, I can already envision the answers we’ll get from at least two of our boys: stop doing – not playing the Xbox; start doing – playing the Xbox.

Here’s to another year of living our best life.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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