So, I received my first piece of hate mail.  It was from an address I didn’t recognize with an ominous subject line:

You Should Read This

Then there was only this link.

At first I was going to dismiss it as some Nigerian Bank scam request, but then I glanced again and saw the title in the link. Of course I clicked. There was no additional message, but I could read between the lines. Someone did not think my wine at playdates was such a good idea.

The article is old, from 2009, and it details why “cocktail playdates” are bad.  My first reaction was sad (how can someone hate me so much!)  Then I was defensive (how dare someone judge my wine drinking!)  Then I forgot about it a bit because I was grocery shopping.  Then I remembered it was time for another blog post.

First, let me state that this post has nothing to do with the author of this blog, Jennifer Ginsburg. She is an addiction specialist and I’m sure she’s seen some pretty scary stuff. She’s also a mom and allowed to have whatever opinion she wants.

I also am aware that some of the first women to discuss their drinking wine at playdates due to the pressures of mommyhood via social media have now also admitted that they have a drinking problem.  Some have needed to seek counseling and entered a life-long battle with addiction.  This makes me sad, and I would never want to demoralize someone’s problem with alcohol.

Second, I am also not encouraging wine at all playdates. I once was part of a small playgroup on Thursday mornings where our extremely young children interacted in someone’s basement. This was a great way to encourage my at-the-time developmentally-delayed daughter to take part in group play,learn appropraite social interactions, and boost her speech.  While I enjoyed these women, obviously it was not wine-appropriate.

Finally, I understand I am not the only person with a blog writing about wine, my kids, and my need for more wine.  It’s a pretty common topic, particularly because I think it’s the thread that binds so many of us.  I also understand the stigma associated with upper middle class suburbanites, their first world problems, and their need to drink wine to deal with the pressures of being a housewife.  I can understand how it must look to the outside, so I thought I would take a few minutes to explain why I am okay with wine at my adult-centric playdates.

(Because I’m new to this blogging thing, I feel I should add a disclaimer here that states I never condone playdating and driving, and if you have infants, you may want to stick to just one glass.  Hoping this legally protects me and absolves me from any bad behavior due to the result of reading this blog in the court of Law.)

So here we go:

1.  Wine is just good.  If the Google source is true, it was Martin Luther who said “Beer is made by men, Wine by God.” Who can argue with that?  I’ve been drinking wine long before I had kids and my guess is I’ll keep drinking it long after they have their own.  I enjoy trying new wines, pairing it with good food and seeing if a twist off bottle can be as good as one that is corked (the jury is still out on this.) It is the perfect punctuation to a long day. Yes, like Pavlov’s dog, the minute I see a bottle of KJ, I relax a little. If loving wine makes me wrong, I don’t want to be right.

2. Wine is a great opening line. I’ve moved around quite a bit, but I’ve found out there is one universal love language that most women speak: wine. I firmly believe that I have such a great support network of women because we’ve shared a glass to talk about life. And contrary to what you may think, I do have friends that don’t drink. In those [rare] instances, I go to my next best vice, coffee. My point is: this journey through life sometimes can be lonely and making friends can be tough. You have to put yourself out there, and sometimes offering a mom picking up their kid from a playdate in for a glass of wine (or any other beverage) is a nice, non-threatening way to make a new acquaintance.  Try it.  You may make a very lonely person very happy.

3. I miss happy hour.  There, I said it. It doesn’t mean that I would trade my kids in for the two-for-one drink specials at Bennigan’s, but yes, I sometimes miss Friday night happy hours with my co-workers. It’s pretty hard to get out in the winter in places like Chicago and Pittsburgh with three little kids, and it can get lonely when your husband travels a lot. Sometimes discussing the latest plot twists on Jessie from the Disney Channel or how the tye-dyed rubber bands are the worst for the rainbow loom is not exactly the stimulating conversation I am craving. It’s even harder when your kids are younger and your thoughts center on things like where are Max and Ruby’s parents and why doesn’t Caillou’s mom just tell him to toughen up! And while I work part-time out of my home, I can go weeks only exchanging e-mails with people. Friday (wine) playgroups for me became something to look forward to; a time when I knew I got to socialize with people I enjoyed while my kids got to do something they liked as well.  To me, it’s no different from kids running around at a Super Bowl party or a 4th of July picnic. Yes, people are drinking, hopefully responsibly, but it is the social aspect that I desire.

4. Serve wine for you, not the kids.  This was my favorite quote from the article:

“Are we ready to call the cocktail playdate what it is — a lame excuse for mothers to hang out and get trashed while pretending to be doing something positive for their children? If motherhood is so challenging and difficult that the only way to cope is by knocking back a few hard ones, you may have a problem. I am not here to condemn women who drink alcohol in a safe and appropriate manner, but I believe that getting wasted with other moms and calling this a “playdate” crosses a major line.”

Yes, this made me pause for a second.  Was my Friday group a facade for a deeper problem? Do I justify the playdates as a positive experience for my kids just so I can get what I want? Was I using my children as pawns in my quest for an adult happy hour?

The answer, Doctor, is no and no, and a heck yes! First, I freely admit that the playdates were for me, but my kids certainly enjoyed them. If my children did not get along with the other kids, the experience definitely would not have been as positive (and probably would not have continued.) But thanks be to God, all the people who participated had great kids and there was rarely a problem. Second, I freely admit that playdates — the ones where adults are present and the ones that are not — are not just for the kids. Please see my previous blog post “Why I Screen…My Playdates“.  I use playdates to occupy my kids during the times I’m not doing great stuff with them, like driving them to activities, helping them with their homework, building Lego projects, playing games, etc.  Like any mom, my kids always come first.  I had to (begrudgingly) skip a lot of Friday playdates when one of my daughters had soccer practice from 5-6:30, or if we had other plans; but if I have the opportunity to sit with some good friends while my kids have a great time, well, yes, I call that a win-win (or wine-wine in my book.)

5. It’s not really about the wine.  Although this is bad for my brand and may impact the sponsorship deal I want to negotiate with Kendall Jackson, we all know it’s not really about the wine. It’s about getting together with your friends. An adult playdate. Despite my alter ego on this blog and on Facebook, I probably don’t drink as much as you think (gasp!)  Wine is a very social thing for me, something that sets the mood and tone for an enjoyable time. I would give it up in a heartbeat though if I had to make a choice between wine and my friends (well, probably depends on what friend, but it’s basically true.) If you are drinking regularly because you can’t deal with your life, then yes, get help. If you are looking for a friend, then yes, I’ll fill your glass with whatever you want.

And bring your kids along for a good time.  The grape juice is on me.

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