Wine and Parenting From the Bench

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting at the Wine Spectator offices in New York City. During my meeting, I got the grand tour, including the space where they conduct their official tastings for the magazine. It was here that I learned about their procedure for tasting the 15,000+ wines they get each year to review.

It’s a rigorous process that you can read about in full HERE, but the thing that stood out to me about it was this: Buried within the flight of wines they are tasting blind that day (usually between 20-30 at a time), is a wine that the taster has previously rated. If, when they unknowingly get to that wine during the new blind tasting, they judge it much differently than they had originally scored it, the tasting comes to an abrupt end, and they are pulled from the process for the day. They are, in effect, benched.

When I heard this, I felt instantly horrified for all the people who have had their professional taster card pulled, even temporarily. The wine business is so full of ego, of sheer intimidation, of industry cred. Any experience that calls your worthiness of a seat at the table into question can be mortifying… bordering on painful. It’s ridiculous, especially when we remind ourselves that wine is a product of pleasure. But this doesn’t make it any less true. To this day, every time I recall one particularly embarrassing experience from YEARS ago when I ran a wine shop on the upper east side of Manhattan, I cringe.

Learning about this, I also got thinking about getting benched while on the job in one of the most demanding career paths ever — parenting.

This week alone, I have been benched by JamesLloydMann, the draconian 3-year-old CEO of our house, for the following:

My singing.

James is like his father, Tim, in that he deeply fears change, and thrives on almost military-grade routine. As such, I sing him the exact same 2 lullabies (You Are My Sunshine and Twinkle Twinkle) in the exact same order, every, single night. Taking inspiration from this Business Insider Article, which tells us that, “The art of practicing is finding a process for repetition without boredom,” I have gotten really into my performance of these lullabies. Practicing a little bit of vibrato here and there, experimenting with key changes and alternate endings… I can honestly say my technique has improved greatly. Sometimes James tolerates the variations on a theme; sometimes he doesn’t, telling me I’m “NOT DOING IT RIGHT,” and to start over. But this week, I made the grave mistake of coughing in the middle of singing one.

“NO, MAMA. START OVER.”

I got to “…when skies are gray” when my voice cracked again. And over again I started.

I literally could not keep it together. It’s like someone telling you not to scratch an itch and suddenly that’s all you can think of. Every word of the song was labored as I tried desperately — and failed — to keep my voice as angelic and soothing as possible.

Normally James holds my hand and looks lovingly into my eyes as I sing. I sometimes secretly hope someone is filming because I envision this being one of the most heartwarming scenes in parenting. This time, however, his hand slid out of mine. He rolled on his side.

“IT’S NOT GOOD.”

I’d been benched.

 James sings himself a lullaby the way he would prefer it to be sung — perfectly

My talking. 

The only way we can get James to eat is to park him in front of his favorite show and quite literally bribe him with TV. If he stops eating, the show goes off. If he’s eating like a champ, he gets another show. Not exactly parent-of-the-year tactics, but it works.

Since we have one of those open floor plans where the kitchen and living room are basically one big blob of a room, and James eats at a little table in front of the TV, this can cause problems. You can’t watch TV without hearing whatever is going on in the kitchen, and vice versa.

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Pure horror as I talk over his show
And, given our crazy schedules, Tim & I have to get our conversations and planning in while puttering around the kitchen (read: preparing a never-ending stream of culinary offerings for our two non-eaters).  This annoys James to no end, who treats Season 3, Episode 7 of Paw Patrol like a historic presidential inaugural address. This week, when the credits finally rolled, he turned to me and said:

“MAYBE NEXT TIME WHEN I WATCH THIS SHOW YOU WON’T BE TALKING.”

Benched.

My inability to un-cancel a cancelled flight.

Let’s just say you don’t ever want to see the expression on your kid’s face when you tell him the flight you have done your best to get him super pumped up about, mostly in an effort to get yourself super pumped up about the prospect of flying cross-country with two small children, is now cancelled.

As clich├ęd as it sounds, it’s like breaking the news to your toddler that Santa and the Easter Bunny don’t exist in the same breath as announcing that all of the chocolate and candy in the universe has run out.

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Bartender, pour me a double while I wait for my mom to get her shit together
I’m a pretty good mom, but even I can’t reroute thunderstorms or influence the flight path of a major commercial airline.

Benched.

It turns out we think we are our own worst critics when, in fact, our kids are. Fortunately they are also our greatest fans… sometimes at the exact same time.

Got a funny story about your kids putting you on the bench? Tell us about it here.

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