Whether it’s early fall or Jan. 1, the new year brings promise. Promise of a better year. Promise of being a better person. Promise of keeping those new year promises.

This past September, like many before, I reflected on my transgressions and made a list of resolutions. I have commendable intentions—OK, add “be less boastful” for next year—but by the winter holidays, I realize that I have already fallen short of my goals. Enter the secular New Year, or as I call it my Jewish progress report.

As an angsty adolescent, I racked up my fair share of poor grades. Each semester, my dad would keep me and my brother’s report cards front and center on the kitchen counter all weekend long. We passed by, pretending not to notice, yet silently cringing and awaiting the castigating lecture. On Sunday night, just as we were getting in the car to be driven back to our mother’s for the week, Dad interjected: “So, I received your report cards.” My brother and I laugh about it now, but at the time, I spent all weekend concocting my explanation and excuses. My go-to response typically involved crocodile tears and the promise to work harder in the new term.

Jan. 1 marks the end of the first quarter of the Jewish year—term one. About three months have passed since my promises to take better care of my body, make the most of afternoons with the kids, be less judgmental and swear less (or at least spell out profanity so I don’t have to tell my son’s teachers that he can’t pronounce the T-sound in “truck”). My term one report card is a gentleman’s C, at best.

While Weight Watchers advertises New Year’s specials in between Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, I mull over ways I can do better. I put down the leftover holiday cookies and do a few crunches, Google children’s craft ideas and make a mental note of how to phrase a thank-you note to my brother for the drum set he bought my kids for the holidays.

Everyone needs a check-in or two during the year. New Year’s reminds me of the promises I made during the fall and gives me a chance to try again. I know it’s not a do-over with a clean slate, but it’s a least a chance to move forward and try for at least a B in term two.

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