Family life

Our perfectly lame New Year’s Eve

Tracy Chappell discovers that very little planning goes a long way.

1NYE

Tracy’s daughters Anna and Avery celebrate the new year. Photo: Tracy Chappell

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

There was a time when New Year’s Eve was easy — you got together with your friends and hit the town and craziness ensued. Then there were the years where a house party appealed more than a cover charge. Then, kids arrived, and you were either too exhausted or too terrified of messing with the schedule to do much of anything. Now, with kids aged five and seven, it’s a new frontier.

As parents, we’ve done a variety of things on New Year’s Eve. But every year, I find it hard to drum up enthusiasm for the big night.

I think it’s because we’ve always spent the week before at my parents’ place to celebrate the holidays. It’s wonderful, in a festively chaotic way. This year, after we came home, we packed up for another great family visit. Then we spent the next day unpacking and organizing and de-Christmas-ing our house (I was so happy to have some space back!). Then it was December 31, and I had to go into work and realized we had made no plans for New Year’s Eve.

After all the socializing and being out and about, the instinct to just pull my sweethearts in close and shut out the rest of the world was strong. Instead of going out, maybe we could make our own fun at home, just the four of us. “Is this lame?” I asked Sean. “No, it’s perfect,” he said. And he was right.

So on my way home, I stopped at a dollar store, threw a bunch of sparkly hats and horns in my basket, and stood in a long line with all the other last-minute planners. We made chicken nachos and ate them in front of the TV while giggling away to Despicable Me 2. We had a raucous dance party in the living room. We counted down our own celebration at 9 p.m. and threw streamers and jumped around and kissed each other. We went outside and ran around with sparklers in the front yard. And then, we put the kids to bed and they were happy as clams. So were we.

One big stipulation I had for our at-home celebration? No electronics (except for the TV to watch the movie). Sean and I put our phones and laptops away so we could BITR (I think this is police-speak: Be In The Room) and make sure all of our attention was on the here and now and each other. Even though we watched a movie, we were all engaged in the same event, which often isn’t the case. I’m sure the kids noticed the difference — I certainly did.

I also wanted the phones away because I know the only reason it crossed my mind that this New Year’s Eve celebration was the least bit lame was because of what I’d see other people doing on social media. Facebook and Twitter would start trumpeting out all the parties people were going to, or the fabulous spreads they’d prepared or the creative games they were playing with a gaggle of party-attired kids.

I knew it would make me feel inferior, less-than, like a mom who couldn’t be bothered to create the right kind of sparkly memories for her kids on this important night. Luckily, I had read this awesome blog post the day before, about how just being here is enough for our kids, that we don’t have to make a big production out of everything to give them a great life. I believed it. It’s what I always try to remind myself of in this world where we’re all putting our best selves out there for the world to see every day. Though I know this, I still knew that my best chance of keeping that spirit alive all night was to block out the messages that might unintentionally undermine it.

All I needed was to look at my kids to know that it was all good. They were smiling from ear to ear and showing off their crazy dance moves and cuddling with us and laughing their heads off. It was so low-key and fun. It made me glad we didn’t bundle up in the frigid temperatures to go skating or to someone else’s house until the wee hours just because we thought we should. This year, it was just what we needed.

After the girls crashed, Sean and I cuddled up and watched a movie, and barely stayed up to watch the ball drop in Time’s Square. It was quiet and restorative and actually ended up being one of my favourite memories of our holiday. I’m so glad I didn’t stress out over what I thought the night should have been.

How do you celebrate New Year’s Eve?