It may be a once-in-a-lifetime night. But by all informal accounts, most parents have opted to mark the millennium by staying home, with the kids, doing nothing.
"It's too overwhelming to figure out what to do," says Ruth Denberg Yoshiwara of Los Angeles, an attorney and mother of three. "We don't want to be on the road. We don't want to spend a fortune."
Even if she and her husband wanted to go out, she says they couldn't because of "the sitter thing." Early in November, she asked her regular caretaker if he could sit on New Year's Eve. He had already made plans of his own.
"Every parent we know, we all have the same problem," she says.
Mark Lattman, owner of the Babysitter's Guild, a Los Angeles agency that keeps 50 sitters on call, says he's been sold out since Oct. 30. Customers calling now are not at all surprised to be turned down, he says.
"They realize they can't wait until the second week in December for a New Year's like this one," he says. "They're resigned to their fate: finding a stranger, a relative, or staying in."
The demand is so high for New Year's Eve sitters that some are rumored to be charging as much as $100 an hour or a minimum of $250 for a five-hour night. Judith Lederman, an online child care expert, said she received an e-mail from an Australian sitter wanting to know if anyone would fly her in for the weekend to work.
"The subject heading read: 'Nanny available for the millennium,' " Lederman says.
Informal surveys have reported that 75% of parents are staying home, she says.
Some, like herself, are concerned about Y2K glitches. What if the heat goes out, or all the traffic lights go off and parents can't get home? Her husband has to work New Year's Eve, so Lederman, a mother of four from Westchester County in New York, says she'll be staying in and "hoping all will be well."
Some local parents have solved the problem by throwing their own parties. And the phenomenon appears widespread.
Brent and Ellyn Schaffner, a couple in Alberta, Canada, have invited 12 families to skate on their outdoor rink, sit in a hot tub, play charades and Pictionary. Ellyn plans to videotape each family to create a record of its "hopes and dreams." At midnight, there will be champagne for adults and juice for the kids.
Some would rather spend New Year's Eve with their children--millennium or no millennium.
Doreen Ignant of Los Angeles says she's taking her children, as usual, to a traditional "watch night" service at Faithful Central in Inglewood.
New Year's has never been a big deal for Hillarie Dietz, mother of three from Pacific Palisades. Most years, she and her family celebrate at home with a "New York New Year's" at 9 p.m. so that they're all asleep by midnight.
This New Year's is a bit bigger, she concedes.
"It falls into the category of things like Kennedy being shot or the landing on the moon. People are going to remember where they are. That's why I want to be with my children. They will remember their mom and dad were home with them, not that they were at home with a baby-sitter."