Last weekend, my wife and I, along with our 7-year-old and 5-and-a-half-year-old, attended the 25th anniversary gala for the Young People’s Teen Musical Theatre Company, as well as the cast party afterwards. The Company, as members and alumni call it, is an amazing organization that, for a quarter of a century now, has offered teens from all backgrounds free professional-quality training. Company members have gone on to be successful actors, singers, and musicians in Hollywood, on Broadway, and elsewhere.
This was a very important event for both of us and we really wanted our kids to be a part of it. But a 3-hour show followed by a late-night party is a challenge for young kids. Our kids did very well, all things considered, but there were a number of things we could have done to make it go even smoother. If you have plans for New Year’s Eve, or any other eve, for that matter, you might be able to learn from our experience.
Our first mistake was running errands all day Saturday. We ran out for new dress shoes for Jared and dealt with some custom calendars I was having printed. The plan had been to have the kids nap in the afternoon, but it just didn’t happen. By the time we got home, my brother- and sister-in-law — and their two daughters — were nearly there and once their kids arrived, there was zero chance of and “quiet time,” let alone a nap. So tip number one is to make time for naps, no matter what. It will make the evening more enjoyable for everyone.
For a big affair, you’ll likely want to arrive early and that means there will be a period of time when you’re just hanging out waiting for the action to begin. Adults can chit-chat or daydream or even just twiddle their thumbs, but kids get antsy pretty quick. Bringing something for them to do will make your life a lot more pleasant. Coloring books with a few crayons, a handheld video game system, or, if they’re old enough, a good book will keep them quiet until the show starts.
We also realized — too late — that we should have brought some snacks and, more importantly, water for the kids. Kids — ours, anyway — get thirsty almost immediately if they’re not engaged in some sort of activity. A bottle of water or two plus some carrots, snap peas, or pretzel sticks will not only keep them happy but will also let you avoid the over-priced concession stand in the lobby.
If you’re attending a formal gathering — meaning the kids have to wear uncomfortable dress-up clothes — you might want to consider bringing some jeans or sweat pants and a t-shirt. As soon as it’s reasonable to do so, let the kids change out of their monkey suits and fancy dresses into something they can crawl around in — this would have been especially handy for us for the after-party (although I’m not sure we could have gotten Sara out of her “princess” dress.) Even if there won’t be a chance for casual clothes, bring their PJs and have them change before you head home — if they fall asleep in the car, you can just carry them in the house and drop them in their beds.
Lastly, something I found out the hard way: put your car keys or anything else bulky and hard somewhere other than your front pants pockets where the weight of a child, having climbed into your lap, will dig them deep into your thigh. If I ever lose my car key, I think a locksmith could make a new one just based on the impression permanently gouged into my leg.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to take advantage of our hard-won wisdom and make sure your night out with the kids is a success. Happy New Year!
Photo: Andreas Praefcke