Husband & Wife Articles


A Year for Putting People First

My children are teaching me to savor the personal moments

By Patrice E. Athanasidy

The start of a new year can bring with it a bit of pressure. Resolutions are made, or in the current lingo, things are added to our bucket list. With a family of five, it is hard to meet all the expectations of a year stretching out before us. With kids, school, work, illnesses and conflicting likes and dislikes darting about our hearts and interactions, it’s tough to even think about planning.

That is why in our house, we have several different “new” moments. It takes the pressure off a bit and gives us many opportunities to grow and change. New school years, birthdays, Advent and Lent all give us a chance to reflect and make adjustments. The new year is just one of many moments to plan and start anew.

Patrice Athanasidy relaxes at home with her husband, Bill.

January 1 also causes us to look back and think about the past year. When I listen to my children, I realize that the Catholic teaching still applies: people are more important than things. When they talk about the past year, they tend to mention the people they spent time with, the family and friend events they celebrated and the challenges they met.

The one who most surprised me this year was Peter. He is 12 and on the autistic spectrum. He is not always good about sharing his emotions, but I know they are there. When he was thinking about the year gone by, he asked why we didn’t get to see some faraway friends like we usually do. He missed them and wanted to see them soon.

This past year seemed to get away from us a bit. I had surgery, and recovery from thyroid removal meant that my energy level was not at its best for several months. Since I am the family calendar maker, some things did not happen. I agree with Peter. That is what we need to change this year.

I need to take a lesson from myself. When it comes to the kids, I take small amounts of time and try to make the most of them. I drive Peter to school on the way to work a couple of times a week. Once a week, at his suggestion, we get breakfast from Dunkin’ Donuts on the way. For some reason, on those rides Peter becomes a conversationalist, not usually his strong suit.

Charlotte is in high school and out of the house at the crack of dawn. When we have a day that she is not staying after school for an activity, I try to spend some time with her before everyone else gets home. We catch up on things that just do not translate into texting.

Kit gets her time on days everyone else is still at school. She especially loves when I make cocoa and meet her at the door. Then she suggests we “chat.” Sometimes these one-on-ones are only 15 or 20 minutes, but each of my children have told me they love those times when we can just be together.

As the family’s calendar maker, I try to create big moments and sometimes that means putting the plan in the future because we can’t find the time. This year, I am going to take my children’s lead. I am going to worry about how to visit the people we should see and not about how to pull off the extravagant trip and or family event. After all, when we look back, it is being together that matters most.

Patrice E. Athanasidy writes from Westchester, New York.