It's a New Year's Eve tradition as entrenched as the ball dropping in New York City's Times Square: Grandparents babysitting on December 31 so parents can party past midnight. There's never been a formal count, but family experts imagine it may be the busiest night of the year for grandparent-sitters.
"It is a great gift to your adult children for you to take care of the little ones on New Year's Eve," says Ruth Nemzoff, resident scholar at Brandeis University's Women’s Studies Research Center and the author of Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships With Your Adult Children (Palgrave Macmillan). "Sitters are either scarce or expensive that night, so all volunteers are appreciated. If your kids have been working hard and you won't resent giving up the evening for them, then babysitting on New Year's Eve will probably be a most-wanted holiday gift. And, as a bonus, it won't cost you a penny."
Grandparents.com columnist Kathleen Wilson of Alameda, Calif., who has sat for her grandchildren on New Year's Eve, says, "I promise to have both children in bed before their parents get home but I don't promise what time. It all depends on how snuggly they are. After all, one day they will be too big to fit on my lap — so throughout the new year, I plan to enjoy every snuggle that comes my way."
As the Hours Pass
One of the great things about babysitting on New Year's Eve is that it's the one night of the year when grandchildren (at least the older ones) can stay up past midnight without getting themselves — or you — in trouble. As the night rolls on, invite the kids to join you in making a calendar, writing resolutions together, or just putting some Jiffy Pop on the stove and turning on the TV.
Or just have a multigenerational dance party. "I watch the kids on New Year's," says Adair Lara, author of The Granny Diaries and grandmother of two in San Francisco. "We put on Motown and get down!"
The New Year's Quiz
Do your grandchildren consider themselves trivia buffs? Challenge them to this New Year's Eve quiz. If they get two out of three, they can stay up until midnight. (Okay, even if they get zero out of three they can stay up until midnight, but they'll have learned something.)
1. At midnight, millions of people will sing the Scottish refrain, "Should auld acquaintance be forgot/And days of auld lang syne." But most of them don't know what auld lang syne means. Do you?
a. old lost melodies
b. long, long ago
c. I'll have the chicken
2. What is Hoppin' John, and what does it have to do with New Year's?
a. It's a dish of black-eyed peas traditionally served in the South on New Year's Day
to bring good luck
b. New York DJ "Hoppin'" John Mercer began the tradition of dropping a ball in
Times Square in 1937
c. He's a magical fairy Dutch children believe brings them good luck while they
sleep on New Year's Eve
3. An estimated 1 million people crowd into New York City's Times Square each year to see the ball drop at midnight on New Year's Eve. How much trash does the crowd usually leave on the streets?
a. 5 tons
b. 25 tons
c. No more than is left there on an average Friday night
[Answers: 1. b; 2. a; 3. b]
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.