Back in the day before I had children, a bar was a place to enjoy happy hour with friends, a place to quench your thirst and maybe stare at an 80-inch television screen featuring Some Important Sporting Event when the conversation got boring. These days, a bar has become a sort of oasis for me and my 3-year-old twins.
Some of you might say that a dimly lit room where people with no day job sit swilling hard liquor is no place for a child. And you would be wrong.
In fact, there’s nothing better than finishing a playground run with friends than stopping by a local watering hole. Throughout the week, we visit mostly kid-friendly places where it’s perfectly OK to do things like yell and jump up and down like a maniac and decide to randomly take your pants off. Come to think of it, I probably did most of those things after a few drinks at the West End, up by Columbia University. But when I take my children to bars and restaurants, it teaches them that there are some situations where they need to talk in their “inside voices” and I think that’s OK!
It usually goes something like this: A mommy friend and I will meet up at the playground and make sure that the kids get some exercise and fresh air. Then, armed with a diaper bag full of juices, snacks, books and toys, we’ll adjourn to an empty-ish bar. This part is key – you definitely don’t want to bring your kid chaos into a refined establishment where adults are enjoying adult time. Seek out a super casual place, and if there are outdoor tables, even better. You can venture into the more upscale places but if — and only if — you guys are their only customers. Next, I’ll set the host at ease by 1) asking if it’s OK that we come in with our strollers and 2) promising to leave if anyone decides to have an epic meltdown (me included). I’ve found that if you adhere to that rule, most places are happy to have you.
Perhaps the best part of happy hour with the kids is that it gives us parents a little time to enjoy an adult beverage and maybe even a little adult conversation.
Now it’s time to order some sauv-blanc, a tall glass of Allagash White or even a round of ’ritas. Here’s another important point: take it slow. This is not the time to reenact Nick Cage’s slow descent in "Leaving Las Vegas." Please don’t be “that mom” who gets banned from a place after hopping up on the bar and dancing like she’s in "Coyote Ugly." (Ain’t nobody want to see that tatty beige nursing bra hanging off a chandelier, sister.)
It’s my hope that by the time the twins are of legal drinking age, bars won’t be mysterious and forbidden places to them. Maybe I’m crazy to think that our outings will lend them a certain level of sophistication, that they will enjoy cocktails and wine the way their mama does.
But perhaps the best part of happy hour with the kids is that it gives us parents a little time to enjoy an adult beverage and maybe even a little adult conversation. I know that for me, being on the playground means constantly trailing my twins. When I’m shouting at them to “stick together” or cheering on their awesome sliding skills, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for chit-chat.
So with wine glasses and sippy cups in hand, the small people and their parents clank glasses and say “cheers” as we swill our respective juice. And when my son is of age, if he ever ends up ordering a Red Bull and vodka — well, it won’t be because I didn’t teach him better.