New year, new you? It’s one of the biggest myths perpetrated by, well, just about everyone and everything. The simple function of chronology doesn’t allow one to entirely reinvent oneself because the hand of a clock sweeps past an arbitrary time. The pressure to be better, try new things, be different, be a new improved, shinier version of yourself is self evidently ridiculous, but still we buy into it with our ‘resolutions’. I won’t drink, I’ll try and get to the gym more, I’m going to cycle to work and so on and so on. We as sensible, functioning adults in the world buy wholesale into this nonsense, even if we deny it we’re probably thinking at least one or two virtuous thoughts regarding the week ahead, so how on earth can we expect our children to do anything different?
Yes, much is spoken about the snowflake generation of post-millennials and much of the criticism is not without basis, but it’s unhelpful and reductive to blame them for the mistakes we made in their raising and education. But, they are of course the first generation to have grown up with the internet as a ubiquitous tool and all the attendant social media pressure that accompanies and scrutinizes their every movement. When we were at school you may have had bullying, nastiness and so on but if someone wanted to insult and denigrate you they would have to call the house phone and explain to your parents what they wanted prior to getting in a few jabs.
This time of year, one of the most crucial times in academic terms for many students – for Year 13 it is the last chance to decide whether to throw their hat in the ring with a university application before the closing date of 15th January, which is a huge and enormously difficult decision. [I’ve long spoken out about the relentless push for uni at schools, that being said if any one of your children are on the fence about whether to pursue uni or an apprenticeship then it may be worth getting an application in just so you have a marker there, better to make decisions from a position of strength rather than choosing the best of a bad bunch.] Psychologically this time of year feels like a tide change in terms of expectations. If the Autumn term is a giddy and unwelcome place holder after the long summer holidays and before the shorter Christmas one, then after the break, it is in the same year as the end of year exams and time to knuckle down, A Levels, GCSEs, Finals, SATs, whatever it is your child is facing, this is when it starts to get more real, only six months left to gain the ground lost in the previous four.
With all the extra pressure, real or imagined, that students are facing this time of year, the last thing they need to be submitting to is the clamouring of new year’s short lived aspirations. Real change, self betterment, aspiration are not dirty words and a sustained and lifelong desire to improve oneself and one’s circumstance is to be applauded and encouraged but sticking plaster solutions and pie crust ambition as a knee jerk reaction to hanging the new calendar is perhaps less healthy – indeed so many of these ambitions are linked to weight and the aesthetic it’s hard to not to think the goals, like the intent, are superficial and destined to quickly implode, and what message does that send? Self love, whilst a revolting, suggestive and toe curling phrase is certainly better than dilettantes wearing active wear for a week or two whilst talking about going to the gym, but never quite finding the time. So, with that in mind, lean in to the old you, embrace cake and Prosecco and being okay with being who you are, your children will thank you even if your waistline doesn’t.