“Where’s your favorite spot for happy hour?” my new neighbor asked the other day.

I blanked. Happy hour?

I’m sure there must be some parents with kids younger than 5 who get out to local bars and restaurants for early-bird drink specials, but I’d guess most parents with kids younger than 5 are more likely to drink — much and often — at home during that time.

If you had told me 25, 10 or even five years ago that someday I’d be fast asleep at 9:30 each night, wide awake at 6 each morning (or at least awake if not wide), I’d have said life with kids sounded like a drag. I’m not saying life with kids isn’t a rainbow shimmering down on a bed of buttercups and tulips that’s sprinkled with fairy dust laced with morning dew and butterfly kisses every minute of the day. I adore my children to bits and wouldn’t trade them for anything (except maybe some uninterrupted alone time in the bathroom), but happy hour, which generally starts at 4 p.m. and drags on for roughly 180 painful minutes (during which time all 10,800 seconds slowly drill an irreparable hole in your soul), is easily the unhappiest time of day in our home.

 

Unhappy hour No. 1

4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

 

There’s so much promise each afternoon before 4 p.m. It’ll be different today, I often think to myself. After all, who could be a sourpuss when hummingbirds hover sweetly outside our windows, the sky reinvents itself as a new and more exquisite shade of blue each time we turn around and we have plenty of food in our refrigerator and love in our hearts?

And then 4 o’clock hits, I pick up my older daughter from preschool or camp, and she turns from a docile little Jekyll into a dastardly and malevolent Hyde, stomping around with a scowl on her face, slamming doors, demanding impossible snacks, for someone other than her to remove her shoes and wipe her butt, for the television to be tuned to shows like “Caillou,” and to no longer be a big sister anymore as she occasionally stares at her baby sister with an eye so evil we have long since kept the number of an exorcist on speed dial.

 

Unhappy hour No. 2

5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

 

People like to call my house between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day. And while at other times I’m happy to put my gift of gab on display without hesitation, it’s a daunting task when a 4-year-old is attempting to break my spirit for the purpose of ensuring that her dinner is the first one prepared and served while an 11-month-old simultaneously tries to articulate how she doesn’t appreciate what’s been made for her by showing instead of telling as she dumps it on the floor and then bursts into tears, until which time her belly is full with whatever I had initially opted not to cook that evening.

In other words, between 5 and 6 each day in my home is otherwise known as hell, and when I’m in hell talking on the phone is not high on my list of priorities. Unless the phone can literally transport me to the actual hell, in which case that’s probably a slight improvement over where I usually am — which is in my kitchen with two of the devil’s most “special” children.

 

Unhappy hour No. 3

6 p.m.  to 7 p.m.

 

The jig is up once the clock strikes 6. No one pretends to try and be easygoing anymore. It’s a race against time to beat the nuclear tantrums and stuff the children into bed. Food must be picked out of their hair and from between their fingers. Diapers must be changed, baths administered (but first the children must be found from whence they’re hiding, caught after they’ve run away and undressed from the clothes they act as if are sewn to their skin in order for them to be thrown in the aforementioned bath).

 

Happy hour No. 1

7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

 

If we manage to get both girls in bed by 7, that means my husband and I have roughly 60 minutes to eat our dinner, clean the kitchen, straighten up the rest of the house from the pint-size hurricane that ravaged it over the previous three hours, sit down together for a drink — all before I go upstairs and watch roughly 17 minutes of something pseudo-real, housewife-y and mind-numbing on TV before falling fast asleep until approximately 6:05 a.m., at which time the first child-like mewls can be heard from the other side of our bedroom door.

 

Happy hour No. 2

7:15 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.

 

It’s the hour each day when I slip out the front door and take a childless walk or jog around the neighborhood. It’s not exactly happy hour for my husband, who gets stuck at home with children needing to be fed, watered, brushed, wiped, dressed, socked, shoed, jacketed, cajoled and coaxed. But then again, he misses unhappy hours 1 and 2 from 4 to 6 p.m. daily, so it seems only fair to spread the misery.

 

Happy hour No. 3

9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

Technically, Happy Hour no. 3 is much longer than an actual hour. That’s because it’s basically the length of time my older daughter is not in my presence on weekdays. And I totally miss her when she’s gone. Until she returns.

Too bad there are no mid-day drink specials anywhere. That’s a happy, boozy period I could get behind.

 

More at www.meredithcarroll.com.

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