Happy Hour, Kids Included

Two toddlers, one husband, a bag of pretzels, juice boxes, white wine: ingredients for the perfect happy hour. Yes, you heard correctly, happy hour! That excuse you used to give for starting to drink as early as possible; that alcohol fest which drifted into the wee hours and ended with the slurring of words. That’s the one. Only it’s had a makeover. Call it a juice cleanse. Because now you have kids.

It’s true, this is not the same happy hour as before – no shots allowed. But it can still be a grand old tradition. Amid the craziness of drop off/pick up, doctor’s appointments and the daily grind of life, it is a time to come together. In our house, during happy hour we discuss our day while we munch on a snack and sip a glass of wine or box of juice. And it is probably the most relaxing time in our household, as my kids are young and meals aren’t exactly orderly or peaceful.

We often try to engage everyone in a conversation by adding a little structured game. Everyone has to share their funniest/proudest/weirdest/happiest/insert word here/ event of the day.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s hard to find time to visit with my friends. How many emails does it take to find a time when three of you can get together for dinner? Easy solution: we invite them to happy hour. They can see the kids but we also get to catch up. It’s an easy way to not have to have someone over for dinner. Just suggest they come over early one evening when they have dinner plans. On a weekend, they can arrive around 5-5:30pm and they’re out the door by 7:30pm. Short and sweet.

If you don’t drink, don’t worry. It works with any beverage. I often sip an iced tea. If you’re worried that the snacks will fill up the kids before dinner, knock them out too. Like any tradition, happy hour should be custom tailored to fit your household.

It need not be every night. Week nights get pretty tight with bath times, dinner, (homework!) and bedtime looming. Make it a special weekly thing – like on Sunday evenings to recap the weekend. Try Friday nights, to catch up on the week.

And it obviously doesn’t have to be an hour. My toddlers tend to get antsy after about 30 minutes so that’s when we usually head in to dinner.

No phones or computer screens allowed. This is a time for interaction with each other. It’s old school.

Since summer and sunshine are here, take it outside. It can happen anywhere – on the patio, in the yard, the porch.

Recently, we were lucky enough to be enjoying our happy hour on the beach. A group of 30-somethings pulled up next to us– clearly a share house of single people – with their beach chairs, and their wine. One of the women in the group observing us toast our Chardonnays came up smiling and said, “That’s awesome. I was always worried that all the fun I had before would come to a screeching halt when I had kids. Thanks for the reassurance. Have one for me.”

That is the truth. The fun can continue, just the G-rated version. I always look forward to sharing happy hour with my family, where the only agenda is being together. And, many days, it is the happiest of all of my hours.

Image via Flickr User Tetra Pak