Yesterday morning I worked from home, and planned to tune in to the Today Show to catch Melissa Summers' stint on the Today Show. It isn't every day that a blogger I've seen in real life (BlogHer '06, though I was too chicken to introduce myself) is slated for a network television appearance, and I wanted to cheer her on, even if I knew she couldn't hear me.
Unfortunately, I forgot to turn on the show when it was live, and missed it by about 10 minutes. Fortunately, the power and glory of the internet allowed me watch the segment after it happened.
I had no preconceived notions about what to expect with the segment and what the spin would be -- all I knew was that it would be on "cocktail moms." However, watching the show's approach to this subject, I was infuriated.
In case you didn't catch the segment, there was an in-studio portion where Meredith Viera interviewed Melissa and Dr. Janet Taylor of Columbia University. There were also clips of reporter Janet Shamlian at a playdate with blogger and author Stefanie Wilder-Taylor and her friends, with all the adults drinking wine.
(Aside to NBC and MSNBC: couldn't you even bother to try and spell Stefanie's name correctly? I mean geez, I haven't even read her book yet and I still knew it was Stefanie with an F.)
I actually thought the playdate clips were done well and did not seem too damning toward us adults who occasionally have an adult beverage in hand while our children are around. But the in-studio interview with Meredith, Melissa, and "Dr. Janet" made me want to throw something.
Melissa's already talked about Meredith's babysitter question and statement. So I won't even go there. Well, actually I will. Earth to Meredith: there IS a difference between a babysitter and a mom. One important one: I'm the only one that screws my husband. Damn straight.
The babysitter comment was just the tip of the iceberg -- there were many other things about the in-studio segment that bothered me, too. For your reading pleasure (and to help me ensure that this doesn't become too much of an incoherent rant), I've broken them down into a few themes.
Do you drink and playdate? Yes or no. And if you say yes, you suck.
It was irritating that NBC started off with an iVillage poll that seemed to set the tone for the discussion. Apparently over 50% of moms on iVillage said "No" when asked if it's OK to drink at a playdate -- and NBC seemed to feel that if the people on iVillage say it's wrong, it must be wrong. So hey, I have an idea -- let's poll iVillage about all parenting behaviors, and come up with a template for how we should parent. We'll let the majority decide what's acceptable and what is not.
Parenting under the influence (POI): the next DUI?
I object strongly to Dr. Janet's use of the term "parenting under the influence" to describe a playdate in which an adult might consume one or even two drinks that are low in alcoholic content. To me, the term "under the influence" indicates someone who is extremely impaired by alcohol. I would guess that a glass of wine consumed with dinner or snacks will impact most people about the way that a triple espresso would -- providing a tiny bit of an adrenaline rush but not serving as an impairment.
But to play devil's advocate to Dr. Janet for a minute -- let's assume even one drink would actually render one "under the influence." Why don't we just get rid of the whole potential for being "under the influence" in any situation? If having one glass of wine is so wrong in parenting, it's probably bad in other situations as well. In fact, there must not be ANY place in which it's appropriate to imbibe, if even one drink can be considered "under the influence.
Let's ban business lunches, where executives might have a glass of wine or a beer while they are discussing prospective business partnerships. Booze on the holidays should be verboten -- even if kids aren't involved -- because drinking impairs your senses, so what if you accidentally offend someone? Or drop a plate because you're a little tipsy? We should likewise ban dating under the influence, talking under the influence, walking under the influence. You get my drift.
Parents are role models for their kids, and thus should act like them at all times.
One of the statements that Dr. Janet made that really cracked me up was something along the lines of the following: "We can be social without always having a drink. We serve as role models for our children so we want to model responsible behavior."
OK, then. If we have to be models for our children 24/7, we might as well start removing from our repertoire all of the behaviors that are inappropriate for children to exhibit. So no more smoking, swearing, drinking of soda, adult entertainment (PG-13 and under movies only, please). For women, no more makeup. For men, no need to shave -- god forbid your child gets a hold of a razor.
And if we're going to be models, we need to act like we think our children need to act. Have an infant that's not sleeping 5 hours at a stretch? Show him how it's done by sleeping around the clock. Is your toddler learning to crawl? Get down on that floor and teach her.
Oh, that's not reasonable? Well, of course it's not. How else do our kids learn the steps involved in growing to adulthood, except to watch how we handle adult situations? Kids are not dummies. If they know you drink, just not around them, what's to stop them from doing the same thing? Better to show them that drinking in moderation, in a social setting, is more appropriate than other types of behaviors (drinking alone, hiding your drinking, drinking to excess, etc.)
All right, rant over. It wasn't ALL bad.
On the positive side, there were a lot of excellent points made by Melissa and Stefanie during the segment. It's too bad they were mostly drowned out by the "I'm-not-judging-you" judgmentalism of Dr. Janet and the sensationalistic approach of Meredith Viera, but nevertheless I heard them loud and clear. And these points represent my philosophy about drinking around my kids:
Put it in perspective.
Melissa made an excellent point during the discussion: cocktail playdates are just one way that we , as parents, relate to other parents and with our children. I wholeheartedly agree.
I'm certainly not advocating the approach of using a playdate as an excuse to drink. I don't set up brunch playdates with my kids' friends just so I can break out the mimosas and bloody marys (although gosh, doesn't that sound good?) I certainly don't tell feel it's necessary to BYOB to the mall food court, the bookstore, or the playground. But if my friend Chloe brings her daughter over on a Thursday night to play, I have no qualms about opening a bottle of wine to have with dinner.
And yeah, if every single interaction with your kids requires you to uncork a bottle of wine or make a gin and tonic, you might be facing a bit of an issue. But that can be an issue for people who don't have kids as well. In considering people who drink, there's a broad spectrum -- from people who imbibe only rarely to those who suffer from the full-blown disease of alcoholism. It's inappropriate to paint everyone who is not a teetotaler with the same broad brush, whether they are a parent or not.
To each his own.
Along the lines of not painting everyone with a broad brush, I wouldn't impose my thoughts about drinking on a playdate (or not) on anyone else. I recognize that every mom is different, and as Stefanie stated, moms should do whatever makes the most sense for them. If some moms aren't comfortable drinking at a playdate, they shouldn't feel pressured to do so.
But if I'm not going to judge, I expect the same courtesy. So if your idea of fun is to drink Nesquik chocolate milk along with your kids, more power to you. Just don't deny me my occasional glass of wine.
And my final point:
Let's move along -- nothing to see here.
I know it's an ironic point, seeing as I've just spent a chunk o'time writing this (and now you have spent a shorter chunk reading it.) Let's not even spend any more of our precious time as parents and as members of society worrying about this stupid non-issue of whether parents "should" drink during playdates or not. And c'mon, media (and society), let's focus our attention on REAL issues of relevance to our children. There's hundreds to pick from.