This week I would like to get back to the “roots” of this blog, and discuss a topic related to “how do I do it”…. and one of the questions I get asked alot is how I manage getting out and about with the kids? Especially when it is just me and the crew (without my husband along to help)…..
This used to be a HUGE source of stress for me when they were younger….. because there are far more of them than me, therefore I can't hold everyone's hand in the parking lot, and it is alot harder to prevent someone from dashing ahead of me in a store, and so on. Now that they are getting older, these days the issues are more about getting them to stop teasing or bickering with each other so Mommy doesn't lose her mind!
So here is how I handle runing errands or going to the grocery store with six kids in tow (mind you, I generally try to do my shopping and errands without dragging along the kids- but there are times)…..
Exiting the vehicle and crossing the parking lot
Yesterday I had a doctor's appointment, and when I pulled into the parking lot to hunt down a space, I saw several Moms unloading strollers and baby carriers from their cars in order to transport their little ones into the building. And it made me nostalgic for the days when I could strap my babes into their own personal vehicle like that, and push them along in front of me, knowing that they were snug and secure, and unlikely to escape and run through the parking lot dodging cars…. but now that my two youngest are both five years old, that option is long over….
In case you missed this post, I happen to drive a care that is more like a bus…. and one of the nice things about this car is that everyone gets in and out of the same door (like a minivan). I also exit from the same door (my car is tall enough that I can walk around inside of it)- so I don't need to worry about one of the younger ones opening the door and escaping as I am digging my handbag out of the passenger's seat…. we all exit together.
When they were younger I used to do a bit of a handholding chain- linking two or three of them up on each side of me, with the youngest two next to me holding my hands, and the older ones holding their hands, etc. The problem with that, although I felt that I securely had them all, we made a rather wide chain crossing the parking lot. Even if I pulled forward in a kind of “flying geese” formation, it still took up too much room….. but it got the job done! Now that they are older, I generally hook them up in pairs as “partners”, younger one with an older one, and let them hold hands in twos. The next question is whether to walk in front of the pack, leading the way and urging them forward, directing them where to go (and around the puddles), or walk in the back of the pack, making sure that no one straggles behind and becomes more interested in the penny on the ground than in keeping up with Mom. So I compromise, I walk in front, with my head turned around like an owl half of the time!
The shopping cart
Reflecting back on the earlier years when it was just me and one or two babes, I remember carrying one of those cloth liners to put in the front of the shopping cart, creating a little germ-blocking environment for my precious tyke. I would wipe down anything he might touch with a sanitizing cloth, and then careful place him inside, along with a snack and a few toys to occupy him while I went about my shopping, often pausing to sing him little songs and plant kisses on his head.
These days when I hit the grocery store with the six kids, I start scanning the parking lot as I pull in for any signs of those huge unwieldy car-carts. And when I find one, I park next to it and hop out and snag it before I even begin unloading the kids. The two youngest pop into the car cab, (without me even peeking in first to see how disgusting it might be), and immediately start “driving” their car by putting their hands all over the plastic steering wheels (which were liekly last touched by one kid with a bad cold and his sister with strep throat). I ask the other kids to follow closely behind me as I try to maneuver this cart through the aisles of the store, and it works out pretty well.
Before we leave home, I try to remember to remind my children to all use the bathroom before we leave. I tell them quite plainly- there will be no potty stops while we are out running errands- that they will need to wait until we return home. I do this because I still have a few little ones who once they figure out that the store has a bathroom, will insist that they need to go… and I know that they just want to see the bathroom….. ugh!
So my first rule of public bathrooms- is avoidance. However, on longer outings, going to restaurants, and certainly on road trips- that just isn't possible. So the next thing I am faced with- is whether or not to allow my three older boys to go into the mens room or to drag them all into the ladies room with me. Moms of boys…. we all face this issue at some point. Luckily for me, my kids have all been pretty good about putting up with me dragging them into the ladies room for a long time. But now that my oldest son is 10, he really shouldn't be in the ladies room anymore, so my rule is that they can use the mens room- as long as all three of them enter the mens room together, wait inside together until all three are done, and then exit together. And no talking to anyone else while in there. Of course, I am not waiting outside of the mens room door listening to make sure that they are okay- I am with the other three in the ladies room…. trying to help them along.
In stores, my rule is- if one has to go, then we all go. In restaurants I will allow us to go in groups, older three alone, and then younger three with me while the older three stay at the table. (I also remember when they were younger that I would tell the wait staff not to be alarmed if they came by the table and we were all gone- we would just be in the bathroom!)
By the way, back when we were still in diaper-changing mode, I used to get so annoyed when I would take a baby into a public restroom and they didn't have one of those cool pull-down baby changing stations. Most especially when we were in a restaurant that had high chairs and booster seats. Clearly the venue welcomed children, so why not give Moms an easy way to change the inevitable diaper? I used to vow that I was going to get little printed business cards made up with the names and phone #s of a few of the manufacturers of those pull down changing stations- to pass out to the store or restaurant manager…. and then I would get home and life would take over, and I would forget all about it….. until the next time that it happened!
A good reward
I am certainly not above a good bribe… er… I mean reward system when it comes to errand-running with my children. Sometimes it is just the incentive they need to keep them well-behaved and on track for the duration. I used to get by with the little dum-dums lollipops… but now it is usually a trip to the Golden Arches or the BK Lounge……. which is fine with me, because after hitting the store with all of them, an afternoon off from making lunch is a reward for all of us!
Tomorrow I will discuss taking the kids out on a “real outing”… like to the zoo or a museum…..