By Jennifer Probst
I had the pleasure of visiting my brother this past Fall, a highlight with my boys who adore their three female cousins. We were also joined by my brother’s girlfriend and her two children, and my brother’s best friend, and his two children.
Yikes. Lots of children.
9 in all. But this wasn’t just a normal weekend visit. My brother had won a private wine tasting at a local vineyard for six adults – quite an expensive prize. When he invited us up and told us about the tasting, there was a single moment when my brain connected with nine children and wine.
“But what are we going to do with the kids?” I asked innocently.
My brother, who is the flowy type, kind of like me, answered, “Oh, don’t worry. They’ll be fine.”
Needless to say, we took the trip and Saturday reigned bright and true. Blue umbrella skies, a warm sunny October afternoon before Halloween. Golden light bathed fall leaves and we felt drunk on nature, before we even reached the vineyard. We stopped for some pumpkin picking at a local farm and feasted on apple cider donuts while the kids rode on play tractors and fed the baby goats.
The vineyard was quite beautiful. Seemingly like an ancient barn that was converted, the wooden beams and open space boasted two large bars, and endless picnic tables which held families with baskets of food and bottles of wine. Delicious, expensive desserts were displayed, along with author signings, crafts and a gift shop. We began making our way into the vineyard and were told to wait in the small shop for our private guide.
And so….it began.
“I’m hot, mommy.” My boys threw their jackets on the floor and began to get antsy. “I want a brownie,” one whined.
I smiled sweetly. “Mommy will buy you a brownie and anything else you want after mommy drinks some wine.”
The other kids smelled weakness. After all, nine kids to six adults is an uneven battle. They banded together and began to whine, moan, twitch, and make everyone in the small gift shop miserable. I looked at my brother with the beginning of blame lighting my eyes. “How are we supposed to do this?” I hissed under my breath as my little one hung on to my arm like I was the momma ape and started swinging around, dangerously close to the bottles.
“It’ll be fine,” he promised.
The guide brought us to our next destination. A long flight of stairs led to a large balcony where two round tables were set up. She looked down at all the children huddled around the steps and immediately looked bitchy. “Are these all your children?” she asked in mock amazement. We laughed and nodded as if we could handle it.
Then my brother brought the adults together for a pep talk.
“Ok, team. This is what we need to do. We’ll buy them anything they want. The tasting is exactly 30 minutes. They need to stay in their seats at their own table for 30 minutes. We can do this. We need to bribe, threaten, and do anything possible to MAKE THIS HAPPEN.”
I could tell my husband wanted to bail immediately. I knelt in front of my boys, two admitted chocoholics. Forget the threats, I needed the big guns. “Sweeties, did you see the big chocolate cupcakes and brownies at the door?” I asked. They nodded, eyes large as saucers. “Well, I will buy you BOTH. All you have to do is promise mommy you will stay in your seat and not move for a little bit. OK?”
They nodded eagerly and we all trudged up the stairs. We settled all the children, dumped some dry crackers in the middle of the table and gave them THE LOOK. You know, the look that says behave and I won’t beat you and will buy you anything you want?
Then an amazing thing happened. Eight of the children sat in their chairs, and began quietly talking. The adults settled at the table and the tasting begun.
Notice I said 8?
That’s because my oldest took that moment to burst into tears, horrified at the idea that he was not sitting next to me but behind me at a separate table. He clung to my leg, squeezed on my lap, while I acted charming to the hostess, watched everyone else get into their wine, and hissed threats under my breath.
And then the thought came again like a neon sign.
WHY IS IT ALWAYS MY CHILD????
I told him no cupcakes. I told him he would go to bed and not play with his cousins. But he squashed his body as close to mine as possible as if drinking my wine would make me disappear. So, I did what I always do: at every party since he was born, at home, at every big holiday I ever attended.
I ignored him and drank my wine.
Eventually, it worked. He quietly faded to his seat and stayed with the other kids. When I glanced at him, he smiled and I gave him the thumbs up sign. A quick conference ensured he would get the brownie and cupcake because he only disobeyed half of the time. My brother agreed.
At the end of the tasting, the hostess had been turned. She gave us a genuine smile with warmth and said, “My goodness, you are the best parents in the whole world. I could have never done this with another group. Nine children and not a peep!!”
The three moms preened and put every peacock to shame.
We bought a few bottles and took the kids for their sugar rush. Then they ran through the fields of the vineyard, and watched kites fly through the air, and petted strange dogs, and had races in the cornstalks. We relaxed and drank and ate cheese and laughed. I remember thinking to myself: this is a great moment. And it was.
Then my brother’s girlfriend turned towards me and motioned toward the children in the corn stalks. “What’s that guy doing over there?”
I glanced over and saw one adult man, watching our big group, dressed in some black jacket. We sipped and watched. “Hope he’s not a pedophile, “I commented. She nodded. “Yeah, that would suck. We would need to go right away, then.”
We looked at each other and made a quick decision.
We rounded up all of the husbands to go chase the strange man out of the cornfield and went about our business.
The moral of the blog?
Sometimes, we just need to relax. Do something out of the ordinary and hope it works out. Sometimes it won’t. Sometimes it will.
But when it does work out, it’s so worth it. Isn’t it?