It’s New Year’s Eve and I’ve spent the day watching a marathon of episodes of Jon and Kate Plus Eight. At some point it occurs to me that I can’t take the crying and the whining anymore. It’s something I can’t stand in my own house, from one child, so why am I watching eight children do this on television? Why is the film crew placing boom microphones right above the crying children? As if their crying wasn’t already loud enough. It also occurs to me that this family on the screen in front of me goes to a lot more places than we do. The dad has a job but the mother isn’t paid for staying at home with the kids. How do they manage these trips to New York, and Florida, and California? Then I remember, oh yes, they are being filmed. The TV people probably have something to do with it all…
Snags has been watching some of these episodes as well, but by 3:00 he’s getting bored. His eyes are dark and he’s yawning. “What can I do, Mom?” he asks. Hmmm, I think… “Well,” I reply, “anyone who takes a nap gets to have a special New Year’s surprise tonight.” “What?” he asks as he eyes me wearily. He sees a trick coming on. A ploy designed solely to get him to take a nap. “Popcorn,” I tell him. “If you take a nap, you can have popcorn tonight when you are watching your New Year’s Eve Nick Jr. shows.” Surprisingly it works. “Okay,” he yells. “I’m going to take a nap!” And off he goes. He runs up the stairs and that’s the last I see of him for two hours. I lean back on the sofa, settle in to watch more crying and whining, to listen to the mom on TV bark orders to her husband in Toys R Us. How, I wonder, will this family turn out? Being filmed on TV was the death of Nick and Jessica. I’ve got to think that the stress of the show could have some negative impacts for this family down the road. I don’t know. I could be wrong. I hope I am.
At 5:00 p.m. Snags comes back downstairs. “I took a nap!” he announces. “And so did Dad. He was playing Xbox but he fell asleep. I wish I could play my video games but you want to watch this show…” he trails off.
“No, you can play your games,” I tell him. “I’ve seen enough of the show.”
“Really? Are you sure?” He’s excited. The television is all his. He can play Sonic, or Madagascar, or Star Wars LEGOs… And I am sure. I’ve listened to eight children cry and fuss and have meltdowns over and over and over again for hours. I listened to them while I ran on the treadmill, while I folded laundry, while I snacked on Ritz crackers. The sound of explosions and light sabers and beeps and blips of video games might actually be music to my ears now.
After dinner Snags turns the channel to Nick Jr. SpongeBob SquarePants is starting. A mini-marathon for New Year’s Eve. Snags has been talking about this for nearly a week. This, Nick Jr. and SpongeBob SquarePants, is THE WAY to ring in the new year when you are six. Snags pulls a pot from the cabinet, a jar of popcorn from the pantry. “Popcorn. Let’s have popcorn now!” he pleads.
I make the popcorn and Snags dances about the kitchen. “It’s time to PARTY!” he says. “Let’s PAR-TAY!”
Snags eats his popcorn at the kitchen table. He says we’ll all stay up until midnight and we’ll party. Only, SpongeBob ends at 10:00 p.m. I’m tired. I tell him that I am going to bed, but he can watch a movie on our portable DVD player, the one we take on long car trips. It’s still set up in his room, left there from when he was sick on Christmas Eve. Snags thinks this is a grand idea, a way to extend his New Year’s Eve partying. “You might want to cover your ears,” he says as he stands up. “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” he screams at the top of his lungs, before turning, heading up the stairs to his room.
“You have to lie down in your bed to watch the movie,” I tell him. “And you cannot get out of bed. Not even once.” “Okay,” he agrees, pleased. “But if my movie is over before midnight I will start it over again,” he says. I agree, that’s fine. He can do that as long as he stays in bed. Snags chooses Star Wars, Episode III as the DVD to watch. He hits the play button as I pull the covers up to his neck and kiss him goodnight.
Fifteen minutes later I go in to check on Snags, and he’s sound asleep, oblivious to the light sabers and storm troopers raging just a few feet away on the DVD player. He hasn’t made it ‘til midnight. Not even close. His “party” of SpongeBob and a bowl of popcorn has knocked him out. But I won’t wake him. I hope the sound of firecrackers and car horns honking throughout the neighborhood at midnight don’t wake him, either. I turn off the DVD player, turn out his bedroom lights, and lean down and whisper “Happy New Year” in his ear, then quietly close the door.