I grew up the youngest of four kids in my family. When I was little, my parents and older brothers and sister used to wake me up to celebrate New Year’s with the grownups at midnight. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I didn’t know any other eight-year-old who got to get back out of bed at 11:50 to ring in the new year with carrot sticks and cheese and crackers. We’d all shout “Happy New Year!” and clink our glasses and sip sparkling grape juice. Then I’d go back to bed. I LOVED being awake at midnight.
That routine faded once I was old enough to stay up without a nap, but I always thought it was just the greatest tradition. One day, home from college for a family Thanksgiving, I mentioned how great it was that they always woke me up at midnight. My sister looked at my mother. My brother looked at my sister. My mother looked at my father. They all looked like they were trying not to laugh.
“What?” I said.
“She doesn’t know,” my sister said, holding her hand to her mouth.
Turns out, it was never really midnight at all. They put me to bed at eight, got into their pajamas, set ALL the clocks ahead, and dragged me back out of bed at 8:20. We partied, and I went back to bed at 8:30, happy as could be. I was livid when I found out and swore I’d never, EVER do something like that to a child of mine. From the time J and E were five years old, they’ve been allowed to stay up as late as they want on New Year’s Eve.
But then this year rolled around. For the past week, a stomach virus has been raging through our house. My husband got it today. The rest of us are on the mend but still run down. There was NO WAY the kids were staying up. None.
“Hey!” I said. “I have a fun idea. Since none of us can really stay up that late tonight, let’s pretend. We’ll set the clocks ahead to say midnight when it’s really eight o’clock, and we’ll count down and have sparkling grape juice and confetti and everything!”
The kids were in bed by 8:30. I’ll be headed there soon.
Happy New Year, everyone!
(And stop laughing, Mom. At least I told them it wasn’t really midnight.)