By Jason Menard
As we age we often lament the loss of things that we enjoyed in our youth. But that mentality is short-sighted when one considers all that we gain in return. All in all, it’s hardly a fair trade.
Like many of you, when I was younger I rang in New Year’s Eve as hard as possible. From nights at the bars to house parties to rock star-esque trashing of hotel rooms, New Year’s Eve was a time for revelry – usually fuelled by alcohol.
In years past, I greeted the New Year with a bottle in both hands. This year, I quietly welcomed the New Year with my daughter in my arms. And there’s really no comparison.
It’s been a steady descent into adulthood over the past few years. Before we were rocking the streets of the town, now we calmly watch Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and ring in the New Year not with a gong, but with a quiet kiss and embraces with friends. The old me would wonder what’s wrong. The new me knows that it’s finally all right.
With two children, aged 11 and four, my wife and I no longer feel the need to go out and paint the town red. We’ve long realized the game of life isn’t won by partying or staying up all night. No, the game of life is won or lost based solely on who your teammates are. And I get more satisfaction now spending an evening at home with my family than I ever did bellying up to any bar and racing the rising sun home.
While I still have friends who continue to frequent clubs and bars, I can’t say that I have any inclination to join them. Instead of drinking myself into oblivion, I’d rather head home and remember every single moment that my son and daughter give to me. As I watch them grow – and as my son gets closer and closer to those teenage years – I realize that each passing page of the calendar means fewer opportunities to share their lives. And I’m not willing to let those moments go. And when I do go out, I don’t want to be stumbling arm in arm with some drinking buddy, but rather enjoying an evening on the arm of my wonderful wife.
So as I sat on our friends’ couch with my wife at my side and my four-year-old in my arms, I watched as my daughter vainly tried to hold out until midnight – less for the New Year’s celebration and more because of every child’s wish to stay awake. Instead of slamming down shots or squeezing another tune on the dance floor, I read to her the assortment of books she continued to bring to me.
At 11:56 p.m. she finally lost the battle, her eyes fluttering closed as she fell asleep in my arms. With my wife at my side and my son nearby, we counted down the last few moments of 2005 and greeted the New Year with smiles and hugs. Our daughter saw the arrival of 2006 through sleep-heavy eyes and promptly fell back to bed.
Shortly thereafter, as we drove the Montreal highways back to our temporary home, we watched the traffic that accompanied us on our route. It wasn’t the over-lubricated revellers that stumbled along the streets of our past, but fellow families heading back to their homes with similarly somnolent offspring in various states of repose in the backseats of their cars.
I realized that while I enjoyed the follies of my youth and don’t begrudge anyone their decision to keep living that life, I’m enjoying the company I’m currently keeping. And like most of us in the not-too-long-after-midnight traffic crowd I went home not regretting the life I’ve long since left behind, but fully embracing the life that I now enjoy.
Because, when it comes down to it, while holding a drink in each hand may have had its moments, they’re easily forgotten. Holding my child in my arms as she succumbs to the security and warmth of a father’s love – that’s a moment that’ll last forever. And I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year.
2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved