Dropping The Parental Ball: 3 Strategies for Ringing In The New Year With Kids

New Year’s Eve presents a choice for parents with young children like me: Is having some desperately needed adult fun worth the hassle of ushering tired kids through midnight and then dealing with their next day exhaustion?

The annual ball-dropping party can spell doom for parents who enjoy the post 9 p.m. nightly silence provided by sleeping elementary-schoolers.

There is no avoiding the choice any longer – New Year’s Eve looms and my kids are keenly aware of the potential for fun.  In fact, my oldest boys will joyous proclaim, “This is the night where we get to stay up until after midnight!”

Insert a tired, reflective, parental sigh here.

For me, there is no real choice – the normal routine can take a backseat for the night.  This does not mean that I’m signing up for misery – in fact, I’m determined to have fun.

A perfect New Year’s Eve holiday, for me, has my littlest children sleeping before midnight so that I can ring in 2017 commiserating with adults.

Sounds like a fairly mundane goal, right?  With five children ranging from 1 to 10, I need a plan to pull it off.

My strategy will not involve deception – that has not ever worked for me.

Two examples of failed New Year’s deception come to mind:

Fail #1: “Noon” Year’s Eve celebrations:

Fooling young ones into believing that the big moment happens in the middle of the day does not work unless you plan to stay in over the real ball-drop.  In fact, these celebrations at noon on the 31st are only really successful in interrupting normal nap time for a toddler – maybe worse than a later bedtime.

Fail #2: Celebrating midnight in other countries:

Fake-celebrating midnight from another time-zone is slightly more effective for getting little ones down at a reasonable hour on New Year’s.  For those of us on the East Coast, that means Googling “Rio De Janeiro New Year” and hoping that we find a live stream in English.

The flaw in this plan, again, is that it typically can only work if you plan to stay in as the real ball drops.

I’ve abandoned the above strategies and am headed to a party this year – with all of my kids.

I have a three-step plan to have adult fun without completely sacrificing the all-important daily routine:

(1) Create the Infant Asylum (for ages < 2 years)

I plan to arrive on time and quickly find the quietest Pack-N-Play spot for my 1 year-old.  A roomy, walk-in closet will work nicely for taking a quick break from the party to get my toddler down at an early hour.

(2) Employ Netflix as the clock ticks (for ages 3 to 4 years)

I’ll empower my 3 year-old at first– telling him to stay up until whenever he wants.  I’ll hope that this freedom compels him to run like crazy until 9 or 10 (ish) – just before the tantrum muscles begin to flex.  When the time is right, I’ll flip on Netflix in a semi-secluded bedroom.  A movie of his choosing will be a perfect end to his night.

(3) Ain’t no party like a third grade and up party – in the garage or basement

I will bring the kid-centric party supplies for my oldest three kids and insist they have a no-adult zone to party.

I’ll come toting the sparkling grape juice, streamers and confetti-poppers with the hope that their own party keeps my older kids away from the adult version.  Note, this works very well in someone else’s house, in a room far away from the Pack-N-Play and Netflix-watching 4 year-old.

I must admit, there is some real Good-Bad parenting at work here.

I feel good about allowing my kids some fun and bedtime leeway.  I feel a bit bad about hoping they fall for my game so that I can enjoy some adult fun.

After all, though, if my three-step approach ends up as unsuccessful as previous “Noon” Year’s Eve celebrations, I’ll have to make adjustments next year.  Or, maybe, I’ll temporarily check my over-worried parent card at the door.

New Year’s Eve can be the one night where I don’t feel like I’ve dropped the parental ball by allowing my little ones to watch the real thing drop in Time’s Square at midnight.


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