We decided to dress up for New Year’s Eve. Ok, that’s not totally true. I decided that we would dress up for New Year’s Eve and played the “Please do it for me card” to get everyone else to agree. After spending a week in pjs and sweatpants—wait, who am I kidding? After spending most of 2020 in pjs and sweatpants—I needed a reminder that we could still put in the effort, shake off the dust and get, just a little bit, fancy. Even if it was only to go to our kitchen table.
Honestly, even in a non-pandemic year, home is my preferred venue for NYE. I’m not the biggest fan of this particular celebration and its grand gesture of forced change. I don’t like the idea that it’s some great refresh when really it’s just one day after the next. It’s too much pressure. What if I’m not ready to let go of things that happened? What if I’m not ready to embrace the unknown of what is coming? What I may or may not be ready to process doesn’t matter because it’s the new year. It’s time to reflect and move forward. But whether or not it’s my favourite celebration, it can be a good excuse to feel pretty.
However since we counted down to an east coast new year so our west coast children could get to sleep at a decent time, we were all back in our pjs by 9:30 PM. When I went to say goodnight my son looked kind of deflated.
“What’s going on?” I said
“I don’t know. I just don’t understand why everyone is so excited? Nothing is going to change tomorrow.”
I smiled sadly, feeling briefly guilty for the fact that his brain works so much like mine.
“You’re right.” I said. “Nothing is going to change tomorrow. But 2020 felt like a really long road to nowhere—life was never going back to normal in 2020. People have hope that in 2021 we will get back to normal living. There is a hopefulness in 2021 that wasn’t there this last year.”
“But this feels normal now” he said. His brother nodded.
I thought for a moment before I answered—sad that they felt this hands-off-masks-on existence was normal. “Is it normal though or have we just gotten used to it? People adapt to new ways of living all the time. It’s how we’re wired. But just because we’re used to it doesn’t mean it’s normal or how we want to live.”
Both boys nodded and mumbled what seemed like their agreement. I hugged them. “We remember what it’s like to spend real time with everyone. To go to movies, cheer along the sidelines at soccer and perform on the stage. That is hopefully just some of the things that 2021 will give back to us. It won’t be tomorrow or next week. It probably won’t even be next month. But by the time we are counting down to 2022, things should look a lot different. Better.”
I left them and thought about my answer—worried that I just instilled false hope in my kids. When Ian and I welcomed in the new year a couple of hours later—sitting at the kitchen table playing a game of Disney Villainous—I told him about my conversation with the boys and my concern about false hope.
He looked at me and said “Why do you think it will be better? The vaccine? A cure? Common sense?”
I concentrated on my cards and stayed silent for a few moments. “I don’t really know. I guess I just have hope that the right combination of those things will put the world back on track to human contact.”
He didn’t answer, just raised his eyebrows at me and let my statement linger.
I know hope isn’t a bad thing but I also know we can’t let it get away from us. If it’s a balloon we also need the weight of realism to keep it grounded. But we are allowed to hope—I will encourage my children to hope. That is what 2021 is about for us.