Karen and me had a very different New Year’s Eve this time round. The previous five, since Jake was born, have involved getting children to bed and then hoping they stay asleep during the fireworks, which they always did. We then planned our summer holiday which helped us to look forward to the year ahead, and helped us to stay awake. We would then watch the London fireworks on the BBC, and be in bed by about 12.15. Not exactly the more extensive celebrations of previous years, but somehow representative of our new lives as parents.
This New Year’s Eve was different though. We stayed with friends who have children of a similar age to ours, and they invited round other people who also had children of a similar age. We had a great time and so did the children, with both Jake and Sam making it past midnight to watch the extensive fireworks provided for us by the good people of Germany. A time when the whole country seems to go crazy for about an hour. It was a great evening: the boys played nicely with the other children, we got to have good conversations, we danced with the boys, and at around half past midnight they went straight to sleep and slept in in the morning.
All in all we had an incredibly relaxing time, and it really encouraged me to have as one of my New Year’s resolution: “meeting more people”. This is a real change for me as I would be the first to admit that I have my misanthropic side. I like my own company, and I need my own space. This, of course, is not always possible with a family and New Year’s Eve made me realise that I often try to extend my need for space to the family level; thinking that doing something just the four of us is preferable to doing it in a bigger group.
Now I think about it it is pretty self evident that the boys are going to enjoy themselves more if they have people of their own age to play with and are going to require less looking after and entertaining less. Obvious isn’t it? Well now I think about it, er, yes it is; but it took me New Year’s experience to realise that that is often the case.
For me, and I suspect for many other parents, bringing up children is a constant source of these revelatory moments: times when we recognise the obvious and wish we had realised it days, months, or even years ago. What I am coming to realise is that I should not beat myself up about this lack of awareness but just be happy that I realised about things when I did, after all parenthood is a constant process of learning; that is one of the things that makes it so great and so scary at the same time. What I learned this New Year’s Eve is that Karen and I do not have to do it on our own, and that my being that bit more sociable may help that process along more than I realised.