Having two energetic kids and two needy infants has made for a very interesting summer. Getting out of the house during the week while Caleb is at work has not been easy. Aside from one trip to a Pancake Breakfast and a trip to a wading pool, every outing I’ve taken with my four children has been mandatory. It seems that along with a couple of premature twins comes a lot of follow-up and appointments… that I drag the two energetic ones along to.
As dreadful as it all sounds, I HAVE had a lot of success – resulting in a beefed-up ego when it comes to toting my mini-army around in public. This has made me terribly hopeful and adventurous. Even though everywhere I go I am being called both brave AND crazy, I keep telling myself that my two older ones never chose to have twin brothers; they deserve to experience being out and about. I’m still having trouble letting go of the summer I had envisioned for them, not even able to focus on next summer, where I’ll have two 17 month old boys in tow – perhaps MORE complicated.
So, although I am no where near an expert, here are 5 things I’ve found necessary for me to do in order to survive an outing with my brood.
1. Perform a little Recon.
Reconnaissance: the military term for exploring BEYOND the area occupied by friendly forces to gain vital information about enemy forces or features of the environment for later analysis.
Weekends have been my opportunity to make up for where I lack during the week. With Caleb home, the extra set of hands means we can have NO fear and check out all of the city’s hotspots. In doing so, you can be sure I’m taking notes – where to park, how to manoeuvre the double stroller, the best spots to set up shop, and everything that would be expected of me in terms of supervision on my own.
When it comes to appointments, I’ve been lucky. In the beginning, I had my mom or Caleb around so that I could bring the babies on my own. That way, I was able to scope out the set up, noting what the older kids would have to endure had they come along with me.
If it’s somewhere I haven’t been – social media sure comes in handy. Being able to reach out for advice from other moms who have been there can be invaluable – the inside scoop.
2. Start Early.
When I know I have somewhere to be, I make sure to wake up in the morning on the right foot. I get up before the kids – attempting to shower, do make up and hair, all before they’re even looking for breakfast. Then – every spare moment is used to get THEM ready/packed. Once that’s done? The two C’s – Coffee and Cartoons. I reward myself with a nice big cup of joe to give me my boost of energy from having woken up so early. Terrible habit – but I enjoy it so much! And as for cartoons – it’s more or less an episode of Full House that my kids seem to love – a little down time for them as well. It also limits our chances for a wardrobe malfunction.
I have a time set as to when I want to leave, aiming to get out of the house at least a half hour before that time. Yes, it takes me a half hour (or more) to get all 4 kids out of the house, buckled in the van and ready to go. Make sure everyone uses the bathroom first, I’ve been burned by that one way too many times.
I should set things straight right now: in the end – I’m either extremely early, or late.
I don’t think I’m ever on time for anything.
3. Be Prepared.
This is the brain-stretching one.
Picture your field trip in your mind. You know your kids – what would they whine about, repetitiously ask you for, fight over, or need from you. This is your chance to PREVENT a lot of unwanted behaviours from occurring.
Make a list. Or if you’re me – make a list, cut it in half, and write it again. I tend to be an overthinker – I’ll make a long, impossible list and then go through each item, wondering how much I really actually need it.
The biggies are obvious – food and water. Someone is always thirsty, someone is always hungry. When I can, I’ll divide up the snacks into individual portions – everyone gets their own, no fighting over who ate more. I also try to avoid nuts and things that create a lot of garbage. I’ll pack each of them their own water bottle, along with an extra big one – because there never seems to be enough. Be careful though – water usually ends with someone always needing to go to the bathroom.
The babies are easy – diaper bag, stroller, blankets.. the kitchen sink. I always make sure to bring a baby carrier with me because they seem to take turns hating the stroller. I haven’t come close to mastering the art of babywearing two babies at once.
If you are going to be outside – a picnic blanket and an umbrella (in case the prime spot is taken and you need to create your own shade).
If you are going to an appointment – “busy bags” come in handy. I have created buckets and buckets of busy bags that I used for our 3-day long road trip last summer. I bring them out fleetingly – that way the activity is fairly new and attention-worthy. Besides that, I make sure to have gum, a couple of notepads with pens, and I don’t know a kid who doesn’t love a good smartphone.
I love those mom’s on pinterest who have the basic necessities always in their vehicle – creatively stored. I strive to one day be among them and be that organized – it would save a lot of hauling things in and out of the van – my least favourite thing after a long day away from home.
4. Discuss your Expectations.
Let them know. Talk with them. It’s amazing how kids respond when we get down to their level and hash it out. Let them take the lead – “How should we behave going to… this place or that place?”
If you’ve done your recon with them and it’s somewhere they’ve been before, they’ll already know the ropes – you can even talk about past behaviours that have worked/haven’t worked.
If it’s a place they’ve never been, explain what the place is like rather than choosing how they should behave. Instead of saying, “you will play quietly while I’m talking to the doctor.”, Let them know – “at the doctors, there is a play kitchen, some books to read and chairs to sit on. What do you think you could do while I’m busy talking to the doctor? Show me how you will play at the kitchen.” Role-playing works wonders – especially for the younger ones!
Praise them for their ideas – positive reinforcement all the way! “I love the way you’re going to play quietly, what a good idea!” Feel free to throw in a thumbs up or some kind of gesture. That way – when you’re at the appointment or the pool or wherever, and they show you the behaviour you were wanting to see, you can throw them that same thumbs up (with a smile of course) – reminding them of your conversation.
Have a little extra time to kill before you leave for your outing? Say you blew away the first 3 steps and find yourself watching the clock until it’s time for you to head out that door. Get creative. Think extreme. Think of the behaviour/scenario that would be the most outrageous (the last thing you would want to see from your kids) and act it out for them. Get silly! Make them laugh! If they are laughing, it means you have their attention and they’re already having fun! They can see firsthand what the behaviour looks like – no doubt they will be able to tell you what you’re doing wrong and what your behaviour should look like instead.
A bonus to this – IF they do end up acting inappropriately while you are out (which – note: they will), pull out the silly act you had them laughing about at home. It will totally distract them from whatever they are trying to do and act as a reminder/recharge their batteries so they can try again.
Don’t forget to discuss your expectations for the outing itself. Talk about instances where you will have to leave early – in my case, if the babies are fussy/crying a lot, we’ll have to leave. Maybe – if the pool is too crowded, if it starts to rain… anything unexpected that may jeopardize their behaviour on the way OUT – because let’s face it, most of the time it’s easy to get them to go, but impossible to get them to leave.
Talk about what time you have to leave and what you will be doing afterward. Maybe have a special wind-down activity at home waiting for them. Maybe you want them to help you cook dinner, get messy with some paint, or play a fun board game.
5. Relax. (try to!)
Have fun watching your kids make memories.
Take pictures – instagram them so your friends can join in on your successes.
Offer positive praise when you see those positive behaviours. Give a warning when you see negative ones – be consistent – and if the behaviour doesn’t change, be prepared to leave.
Don’t worry about what other people may think – the nurses at the doctor’s office have all seen children behave better/worse than your children; the mom’s at the park have all had their days where they’ve been forced to drag their child home kicking and screaming.
Celebrate with your children when things go right, and don’t be too hard on them when things go wrong. Tell them you’re favourite part of the day – and let them tell you theirs. Talk about the behaviours you had expected to see, and ask them about the behaviours you saw instead. Chances are – they will be their own worst critic – holding themselves to the high standard you set, acting tougher on themselves than you ever would be.