Remember when your main worry for New Year's Eve was whether or not you'd have a date for the big party? Years later, you're still worried about getting out on the biggest night of the year, but now the problem is what to do with your kids.
You find yourself hoping your regular teen-age sitter down the block doesn't have a date (This is cutthroat. It's your good time or hers, right?) Even if she agrees to sit, you worry until the moment she actually arrives at the door that she'll get a last-minute invitation and leave you cold. (Would you blame her?)
There are alternatives. Professional sitters cost more than teen-age neighbors, but they offer peace of mind. Book through a baby-sitting agency and you know you'll have someone at your house on New Year's Eve. Depending on the agency, pooling kids from two or more families can be cheaper--and more fun for the kids. But perhaps even more fun is the controlled mayhem of a sleep-over party at the YMCA.
"Book early," cautioned Gail Flores of We Sit Better. "Sitters are at a premium on New Year's Eve, and we run out."
Community Service Agency, Tarzana, (818 345-2950, 818 996-2229). Last year this agency placed 125 sitters for New Year's Eve. Their sitters range from 25 to 75 years old.
Prices for New Year's Eve start at $37 for one child for five hours starting at 7 p.m. Even if you don't need the sitter until 9 p.m., you are charged for a 7 p.m. start. It's $7 per hour after midnight. For two children, it's $39 plus $7.50; for three children, $42 plus $8; for four children, $44.50 plus $8.50. Add $3.50 per sitter for transportation costs. These rates are for children in one family only. If you pool children and hire one sitter, this agency charges differently. "If there are four kids from three families, the first family pays $44.50; the second and third families, $22.25," said owner Newton Fletcher.
A $20 non-refundable deposit, which goes toward the total charge, is required by Dec. 26. The agency services San Fernando, Simi and Santa Clarita valleys, Burbank and most other parts of Los Angeles.
All Around Child Care Agency, Woodland Hills, (818 710-8151). For New Year's Eve, this agency doubles its regular rates. It will be $8 per hour (for one child) with a five-hour minimum plus $3.50 transportation fee. Two children are $8.50; three are $9. When families pool their children, the second family is charged 50% more. For example, with four children--two from each family--the fee will be $8.50 per hour for the first family, $4.25 for the second. New clients are charged a $20 deposit, which goes toward the total charge.
Families may request the sitters to arrive at any hour, even 11 p.m., but the five-hour minimum will prevail. Most sitters are mothers and grandmothers who all drive themselves to their jobs; the youngest is 28. All Around will send sitters to the West San Fernando Valley only.
We Sit Better, Van Nuys, (818 997-1421). The charge here is $43 for one or two children for five hours plus $7.50 for each additional hour (transportation fee included). Three kids (in the same family) are $48 plus $8.50 per hour. A two-family pool of up to four kids would be $55.50 plus $10 per hour. The agency gets calls for group jobs for as many as 10 kids from six families and can provide special sitters and special rates. "We've got sitters with stamina you wouldn't believe," said office manager Gail Flores. Sitters are available for the San Fernando Valley, Westside and Burbank but not Simi or Santa Clarita valleys.
East Valley Family YMCA (5142 Tujunga Ave., North Hollywood, 818 763-5126). This Y's Young Adults Club, whose members are age 25 to 40, sponsor a sleep-over party for children in grades kindergarten through sixth. Parents bring their children--with sleeping bags, swim suits and towels in tow--to the Y at 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve. The evening is spent swimming, playing games and watching movies. For those who stay awake until midnight, there will be a celebration. In the morning, more movies will be shown before a pancake breakfast. Parents are expected to pick up their kids between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. The Y usually plays host to 60 to 70 kids for this party. The cost is $20 for members, $30 for non-members. Sign up by Dec. 26.
Santa Clarita Valley Family YMCA (19409 Cedarcreek St., Canyon Country, 805 253-8060). This Y's sleep-over, for children in grades kindergarten through six, is similar to the East Valley's program, minus the swimming. Here, the evening will begin with everyone making dinner followed by movies, storytelling and making party hats. Drop-off time is 7 p.m., pick-up time, 9 a.m. The evening will be run by the Y's after-school program staff. The cost is $20 per child for Y members; $25 for non-members. Reservations should be made by Dec. 24.
North Valley YMCA (10925 Columbus, Mission Hills, 818 365-3231). This overnight party, supervised by the Y's after-school staff, is also for kids in grades K-6. Drop-off time is 7 p.m.; pick-up, 9 a.m. There will be a party with movies and games, some craft time and an opportunity for the kids to stay up until midnight. The cost is $15 per child for members; $21 for non-members. Reserve space by Dec. 20.
Happy New Year.