Paper construction of a New Year's clock by Matthew Sporzynski
Credit: Monica Buck

In other words, do you embrace your postholiday, back-to-work funk and stay in your pajamas for as long as possible, eating leftover cheese fondue and wondering how early in the day you can start drinking the remaining champagne? Or do you put on your bathing suit and try something new and stupid? In public!

This January 1, I chose the latter route.

The backstory: For the past three years, my nephew has participated in the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge in his Connecticut town. He even did it last year, when the temperatures were below freezing and there was snow on the beach. Now that you mention it, it is true that he cried for two hours straight after the event, because his feet were in so much pain. But we won’t dwell on that.

I decided as Christmas approached that I needed to do something BIG and BRAVE and BOLD to convince my middle-aged self that I was still capable of a bit of derring-do. My entire family was going to be spending New Year’s Eve at my house, and my unsuspecting sister mentioned that my nephew would once again do the Polar Bear Plunge the following morning. Little did she know that she had hatched a plan. Using all of my powers of persuasion, I talked my two older sons into doing it with me. It went something like this:

BOY: “Mom, I don’t want to do it.”

MOM: “Oh, c’mon, it will be fun!!!!”

BOY: “No thanks.”

MOM [desperate]: “You can tell everyone that you went swimming in the ocean* on New Year’s Day!”

BOY: “I don’t care about that.”

MOM: “Why not?!? It seems like so much fun!”

BOY [yawning]: “Not to me.”

MOM: “Your younger cousin has done it for three years in a row!”

BOY: “I really don’t want to do it.”

And on and on, until I convinced both boys to put their bathing suits on under their clothes, which they agreed to just to get me to stop haranguing them. Once they got to the beach, the peer pressure of total strangers took over. A rare win for Mom.

When I told friends that I was planning to do the Polar Bear Plunge, they were horrified. Which of course made me want to do it all the more. It helped that it was 50 degrees in Connecticut on New Year’s Day. My sister, our five kids, and I all dashed into the water at the appointed time, belly flopped under (you have to get your head wet or it “doesn’t count,” whatever that means), and ran back to shore as fast as we could. Even my mother, who plays golf and skis and works out with a trainer and is no slouch in the fitness and bravery department, remarked, “I’m not sure I could have done that when I was your age.” Which I took as a compliment, at my age.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I won’t. How did you ring in the New Year? I can’t speak for all of us, but for me, I hope the Polar Bear Plunge means 2012 will be full of big, brave, bold events for the middle-aged, in-bed-by-10, spandex-dependent suburban mom that I truly am.

Happy New Year!

*Technically, it is not “the ocean,” but the Long Island Sound, which my husband helpfully tells me every chance he gets.