I turn 45 tomorrow — undeniable middle age, honest and true. I can no longer even pretend that I’m young (and my gray roots give it away, anyway). Because my birthday and the new year are so close, I usually make my resolutions in mid-January instead. Convenient!
I used to focus on actions: get more Vitamin D, eat better, wake up at 5 a.m. to run. (Yeah, right: I’m usually playing Wordle with one eye open, drooling into my pillow at 7:15, and loving every second.) I’d stick to something for a few weeks, but then the predictable rhythm of reality would set in, and I’d revert to my old ways: snacks and sloth.
With (ahem) age, I began to realize that subtle mind-set shifts were more effective than sweeping meal plans or unattainable workouts. This year, I also asked readers about family-related missteps in 2023 and their vows for 2024 — nothing major, just little shifts that might make life a tiny bit better, simpler, or more fun. Here’s what you said.
On realistic housekeeping: “I think we spent way too much time on the weekends trying to keep organized and the house clean instead of just playing and having fun with our three kids. This year, my wife and I have pledged to be OK with the mess and just play instead.” – Matt, Franklin
On lovable but hungry pets: “We added a dog to our family. She’s our 9-year-old daughter’s dog. I take her to the vet so she chews up my things — wallet, credit cards, shoes, underwear … But we just love her and are so glad she’s part of our family.” – Kathy, Belmont
On the pleasures of home: “We stayed at a hotel with a pool in Somerville’s Assembly Row, went to Legoland, ate out at the nice restaurants lit with strings of lights, and watched people play ‘beach’ volleyball under floodlights. The kids had a blast, and it took 30 minutes to get there. They sometimes ask with a dreamy expression: ‘Mummy, do you think we could go to Somerville again?’ – Rosy, Roslindale
On reducing materialism: “We reduced gift-giving to my son to just immediate family, neighbors, and one gift from my husband and me. Our son was less overwhelmed by gifts, and we had a much smoother, more enjoyable Christmas.” – Jasmine, Newton
On sleep: “I want to get my daughter to not wake me up in the mornings but stay in bed until I come get her.” – Anneli, Jamaica Plain
On getaway plans: “I drove myself to family events and made it clear I had time constraints or plans when we had bigger events. This allowed me to see my family, socialize for my predetermined amount of time, avoid being taken advantage of for rides, and give myself an ‘out’ when I needed it.
I often find larger groups overwhelming, and I don’t share most views with my family, so large family events feel anxiety-ridden and frustrating. Creating this boundary lessened that. (I also stashed an extra cold brew in my car.)” – Jen, Taunton
On aspirational meal-planning: “I was making lunch one Sunday afternoon and had a vision that I would put together a Pinterest-worthy lunch. I asked my daughter what she wanted, and she asked for charcuterie. The smart move would have been Lunchables: charcuterie in a box! But I whipped out my inner June Cleaver, pulled down the cookie cutters, and made beautifully shaped cheese cut-outs accompanied by a salami rose. The bar has been set, and now I can’t go back.” – Stephanie, Southborough
On volunteerism: Our goal is to get a real 501(c)3 and or nonprofit designation and get our foundation [devoted to helping kids do good deeds] running right! The local community has been incredibly supportive and everywhere I turn, we get more and more words of encouragement.” – Joe, Acton
On less screen time: “We let our 4-year-old become addicted to his iPad in 2023. We said it was broken on the first day of 2024, and the first few days were a bit rough, but now he plays with his toys, looks at his books, and hasn’t asked for it back. Best thing we’ve done so far this year.” – Keri, Beverly
On travel fiascos: “I [bought] airline tickets for a school trip before all the details were confirmed: 100 percent not going to do that again this year.” – Meg, Roslindale
On carving out quality time: “We have a 17-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son and realized we haven’t taken them on a family vacation in many, many years. We have traveled to visit family or friends for holidays and such, but not a vacation since a Disney cruise in 2016. We made a conscious effort to do that this year over winter break since we all had off from work and school. We accomplished our goal of spending more quality time together and plan to book another trip for next winter break again for a different location.” – Jillian, North Andover
On sharing germs: “We finally decided that this year we would no longer try to keep the kids separate when they get sick. The other one always inevitably gets sick, and it only prolongs it by trying to keep them separate.” – Rachael, Beverly
On seizing the day: “I moved! As a new empty nester, my husband and I decided we no longer needed to live where the kids went to school. We always dreamed of living closer to the water. We moved from Needham to Essex. I worried my college-age kids would be kind of [mad], but life is short, and I did not want to wait. (To their credit, they did not give us a hard time about it and have come to love the new home.)
After 2020, COVID, and a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, I made some big decisions about how I wanted to spend my time. … So when we found the right house, we made the leap, and I could not be happier. We now walk on the beach on a regular basis, and every day, I feel a bit like I am on vacation. I highly recommend it.” – Wendy, Essex
On eating adventurously, but expensively: “Encouraging [my] boys to try sushi (specifically, nigiri like salmon, tuna). They, of course, liked it. Our dining and take-out bills for sushi night quickly jumped 70 percent. The related lesson is the kids discovering they liked steak and steak tips at restaurants.” – Grant, Arlington
On multigenerational bonding: “We’re in the sandwich generation, raising our kids and also looking out for our parents. The majority of the time, we privilege the kids’ activities or the kid-grandparent combos. In 2023, I took off work and treated my mom to a full day of mother-daughter outings to places and events that she would love: tea at the Boston Public Library, the fashion and Sargent exhibit [at the MFA], dinner, a play. She had my full attention because I wasn’t in mommy mode, or hosting mode, or work mode, doing the usual runarounds. It was treasured time for both of us. I plan to keep doing that periodically. It models it for our kids, too, and I hope to do the same with them when they’re adults.” – Roxanne, Newton
Oh, and as for me? I’m going to try to be laid back in small ways. (I’ve spent a lifetime in therapy trying to do this in large ways, too. It’s sort of worked!) I’m going to try to let my husband text the tutor or check PowerSchool, have someone else suggest the restaurant, or resist the urge to reply to every email and text within 10 seconds. Unless they’re suggesting that we go running together — in which case, I might not reply at all.