New Year’s resolutions should be frivolous. At least that seemed to be the position of Josh, Hilary and Linda, who grew increasingly frustrated each year by my New Year’s Day demand that we each prepare resolutions for the coming 12 months.

I urged. I pleaded. I admonished. And sometimes I prepared resolutions for them. Initially, the resolutions had more resolve.

For example, Hilary used a crayon at age 6 to make her list, which included “Resilutions: get all S’s on report cards, try to read 50 books, try to write one paragraf a day, do one math paper a day (not counting school).” She was obviously focused on school!

But Hilary also included that year, “Use the microwave 11 times or more, do not act up in publick, no pouting, and no skreeming at Mom and Dad.”

Four years later, although the screaming went on, these resolutions had disappeared from Hilary’s list, apparently recognizing that it takes more than a sheet of paper on New Year’s Day to change human behavior.

By the time she was 10, Hilary’s list had become remarkably brief: “Put my bike together and be able to ride it, read at least 53 books, learn to type.”


That was a lot more realistic. She completed all three.

Joshua caught on to the program early. His initial resolutions included, “Get better at basketball, get better at soccer, get better at baseball and get another 2,000 baseball cards.”

But he didn’t ignore the human element, resolving to “help Mom and not tease my sister.” Curiously, no resolution to “help Dad.” Josh also resolved to “try to get my Mom to let me stay up later,” and “try to get a higher allowance.”

Finally, I knew he was on to me with the last resolution that year, to “not do resilutions next year.”

Eventually Josh began neatly typing his resolutions, some of which were turning into lifetime listings. Among Josh’s resolutions one year were, “get better at basketball, baseball, soccer and ping pong.” Well, at least we had a new sport there. Josh’s demands had soared though, as he was now hoping to “get at least 3,500 more baseball cards.”

Of course, he tossed in a few to please Dad, like “get high honors every quarter,” and “get to be a better cook,” but it did not take a genius to notice that I was beginning to lose him, in the resolutions that promised to “tease my sister more,” and “have fun!”


Resolutions are not supposed to be fun.

In our final year of this futile exercise, Josh went after me with a vengeance, listing a total of 27 resolutions. Many were outstanding, setting high goals for school work, music and sports. I especially liked the ones about fishing, which included, “get better at fly fishing” and “catch over a 16-inch fish.”

He did get a lot better at fly fishing and caught that season’s largest fish, a 14 ½-inch wild brook trout. He also accomplished many of his other resolutions, including “beat Dad at ping pong.”

The perennial — “tease my sister more” — was there, too, with new resolutions, “to be able to get my sister to shut up when I tell her to,” and “get my sister to stop doing that thing with her eyeballs.” Honestly, I have no idea what the latter was all about but the shutting up went unaccomplished.

Lin steadfastly refused to join in this resolution exercise, although I did prepare a few for her every year. One year, she actually verbalized four resolutions that I quickly set down on paper, and she achieved all but one. She didn’t “spend at least one hour each day relaxing and doing something special for herself.”

For me, I developed resolutions in a feverish desire for improvement and accomplishment.


Diet and exercise appeared each year, along with other perennials that, for one reason or another, were never achieved and hence carried forward. Sometimes they were masked in new language, like “eat more nutritiously and less voluminously.”

“Paint the back of the house” appeared for a number of years, along with “spend more time training the dog.”

For appearances sake, I usually listed “keep the kitchen clean for Lin” or “learn how to cook.” One year, I resolved to master our new computer system (who was I kidding?), plant a new lawn on the west side of the house (nope), and spend time fishing the Kennebec River with Dad (we went once).

In 2014, may you achieve all of your resolutions, written or unwritten!

NOTE: A longer version of this column appeared originally in the 1990s.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at

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