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The Motherlode: It’s a whole new year

January 9, 2019

New Year’s Eve found me collapsed on a couch at a friend’s house, barely able to move. Across from me, two fathers sat in an exhausted state of shock.

“Do you realize it’s only 8:30?” one father asked as a feral pack of 7-year-old boys ran through the living room. For some reason, they had decided to take off their shirts, reinforcing the primal nature of their stampedes through the house.

We were at a New Year’s Eve party, and with hours to go we had already mediated a bed-jumping altercation (involving a 6-year-old who was inadvertently kicked in the mouth) as well as a door-slamming incident that nearly amputated an 8-year-old’s finger.

“So …. any New Year’s Eve resolutions, Claire?” one of the fathers asked.

The question just dangled there in the living room, like a single sock with no hope of ever becoming a pair.

“Aghhh,” I sighed. “What IS IT about New Year’s Eve?”

There was a long pause.

“Older, wiser — what’s the other one? It’s SUCH a crock! Getting old sucks — things get worse and worse, let’s face it!” one Dad said, gaining momentum — and suddenly he was hollering “I hate this night! It’s like the worst night of the year! Talk about a set-up!”

And just like that, we had lost him. Another one down; mid-life crisis had struck again.

But New Year’s Eve always kind of sucked, to be fair. When I was single and party-hopping in New York City, there was always this hellish pressure to get somewhere by midnight, which often ended in being stuck in a cab somewhere in the East Village. What party to go to, what resolutions to make and worst of all the panic of not finding someone to kiss at the stroke of midnight.

When babies came into the picture, we finally had an excuse. On New Year’s Eve we could get into bed by 9 p.m., maybe face a midnight feeding but no horn blowing or confetti in sight. Instead there was a sound machine set on some form of whale call at top volume. The New Year brought one hope and one hope only: a baby who could sleep through the night. Forget the kiss, look at where that got us …

When our children were 4, 3 and 1 years old we figured it was time to venture out and actually do something on New Year’s Eve together. After some research on “toddler-friendly New Year’s Eve events,” I signed us up for the “Family Jumpin’ Noon Ball Drop” at Pump It Up in Norwalk. Pump It Up (or the “Inflatable Party Zone”) was a place we had just discovered. It was a giant warehouse filled with inflatable slides, bouncy houses and obstacle courses that did one thing very well: exhaust our children.

Moving from New York City party-hopping to an early bedtime on New Year’s Eve was adjustment enough. But if you want to plummet to an even lower rung on the ladder, I highly suggest the Pump It Up New Year’s Eve Family Jumpin’ Ball Drop.

Imagine a room full of drooling children and toddlers, all with varying degrees of mid-winter illnesses, screaming and jumping. At some stage, a clearly traumatized Pump It Up staff member announced it was time to count down to 12 — noon — and then the inflatable party zone ball would drop. Herds of children charged for the ball drop zone, as we watched our one-year-old lick an enormous inflatable slide. You could practically see the Nora or Coxsackie virus’ teaming on every surface. I might know who to kiss at the stroke of 12 — noon — but I wasn’t risking it.

But then your kids get older, and somewhere along the line word gets out on the playground that New Year’s Eve means no bedtime. And here you are into the wee hours of the morning with all your children wondering if you will still be left standing, not to mention find someone to kiss at midnight.

“The ball has to drop! The ball is gonna drop!” several kids hollered, as the stampede made another loop around the living room.

“If you want to see balls drop you should just come to our house! We drop balls ALL DAY LONG,” a father hollered enthusiastically into the crowd.

But then something started to happen. The two exhausted Dad’s and I started to laugh, and after a few minutes we found ourselves unable to stop; we had reached some kind of tipping point.

Someone put DJ Dimitri from Paris’ “Love Love Mode” on full volume and suddenly we were on our feet dancing to happy Euro House music, as the stampede of children weaved its way through our legs.

“I feel like I am in a dance club in Oslo!” I hollered in wild abandon.

“But you’ve never been to Oslo,” my husband responded.

I could tell he was getting nervous. He was using the same tone of voice that he used at my friend’s fortieth, when he had to pull me away from the Karaoke machine because “other people want a turn, too, Claire.”

But not even Killjoy could stop me now.

“Everyone let’s pretend we’re in Oslo, where there is free childcare, endless maternity leave and the federal government never shuts down!”

We danced and even the kids started to join in. Juice boxes and champagne flew around the room, and two mothers decided to scream 2018 out of the door, the way Trump hollers at Mexico, China and really everything.

“Good riddance, 2018!” they yelled into the rainy night.

And suddenly the entire pack of us gathered around the living room, as the Times Square ball drop count-down commenced on the TV. Kids and parents alike held their breath and suddenly horns, streamers and fruit roll-ups sailed through the room.

And just like that it was 2019. My family of five jumped amid friends in the wild abandon that only New Year’s Eve can bring.

From across the room my husband winked at me with a wary smile, as if to say, “Here we go again; another year.”

And suddenly I knew exactly who to kiss.

Claire Tisne Haft is a former publishing and film executive, raising her family in Greenwich while working on a freelance basis on books and films.

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