Have you ever had a plan fail so spectacularly you could only shake your head in grudging admiration, forced to laugh ruefully at the smoldering wreckage of your hopes and dreams?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you – New Year’s Eve 2018.
I’ve never been one to get glitzy to ring in the new year. Truth be told, I hadn’t been awake to see the ball drop in several years, but it seemed wrong not to mark the occasion at all so I had a plan. It wasn’t wildly adventurous by any means. My vision included a nice family dinner, a few sparklers and poppers, and board games with the kiddos and my parents.
It would be warm and cozy. We’d snuggle by the fire and play the new Harry Potter Clue game I’d gotten for Christmas. Or perhaps go old-school with a set of pickup sticks or a BINGO card. We’d laugh and smile lovingly at each other, dance in the driveway with our sparklers, and maybe even stay up late. I’m talking really late. Maybe even (gasp) 10pm.
You know where this story is going, right? Even without my catchy title, the setup is clear.
Although dinner was delicious, not all of the junior members of the family agreed. There were curled lips and ostentatious gagging noises, coupled with indignant demands for goldfish crackers. Because it was a holiday, I compromised (or surrendered, depending on your perspective) by adding a bowl of crackers to the table and pretending I had always intended to include them as a whimsical side dish to an elegant meal.
Sensing weakness, my offspring then demanded large blocks of chocolate fudge for dessert. Sure, why not? It’s New Year’s Eve, after all!
Fueled by sugar, we moved on to pyrotechnics, but I’ll admit my heart wasn’t totally in it. Maybe it was the wind and the rain. Or the fact that my kids were so giddy from the chocolate that they weren’t being careful and nearly set each other on fire repeatedly with their sparklers, when they could pause their constant bickering over who had more to actually light one, that is.
Thus it was that we embarked on Family Game Night already tired, a bit grumpy, and coming down off the sugar high. Throw in three highly competitive and very emotional children and what could possibly go wrong?
I’ll spare you many of the gory details, but let’s just say that Harry Potter Clue is way too hard for a five-year-old; pickup sticks can be used as weapons; and any game in which small children are asked to give back hard-earned cash (even if it’s pretend money) doesn’t have high odds for success.
Through sheer force of will, I dragged us through an entire game of Allowance – wherein the players earn money for chores and then spend it on school supplies, ice cream, and library fines – but only because I meditated quietly to myself while the children took turns losing their ever-loving minds.
To avoid a total emotional collapse, I sent everyone to bed by 9:30pm and then huddled in my recliner for a couple hours, eating a large bowl of puppy chow snack mix, debriefing the evening with my best friend via text, and obsessing over what parenting errors on my part had most likely led to this sad state of affairs.
By midnight, I had calmed down and decided against selling one (or more) of my children to the circus. I’d done some research on cooperative board games, drunk several glasses of eggnog, and finally convinced myself that my tendencies towards over-permissiveness were probably not, in fact, destroying their childhood.
The next morning, I emerged from kitchen cleanup duty to find my kids playing the dreaded Allowance game. Together. Peacefully. It turns out, they loved it, despite all the weeping and gnashing of teeth from the night before.
Kids are weird and parenting is hard, but tomorrow is another day. Every time.