One of my dear readers asked me to write a post on what I typically do to wrangle my three little ones when we are out and about. Your wish is my command!
Without further ado, my tips on leaving the house with multiple beings who have trouble moving under their own steam:
1) Give yourself plenty of time before you leave to get everyone ready, and then expect to still be late. I am fortunate to have VERY patient mommy friends who don’t sweat it when I am late. I had one very lovely mom who waited for me for HOURS and I had my mom helping me that day! I can’t help but notice we never had another play date after that disaster . . . . . Anyway, it takes a lot of time to get littles dressed and fed and pack the diaper bag and load everyone in the car. And then inevitably at least two of them will poop their pants. Begin the process over.
2) You will forget something, so keep the car well stocked with emergency items. I always keep a package of wipes, a change of clothes, trash bags, squeeze fruit, water, and towels in the car. In the summer I keep swim diapers and puddle jumpers, in the winter I keep hats and blankets. I have used all of them several times. For some reason I never forget diapers, but I am always forgetting wipes.
3) Baby wearing and strollers are a necessity! I have panic attacks if my husband takes my strollers out of the back of the car to fit something else in for one trip. I depend on them. I keep one baby stroller in there to snap the baby seat in if it suits my needs to push the baby and walk the toddlers, and I have the double stroller if I decide to buckle in the two toddlers and wear the baby. If I know where we are going will be too far for the toddlers to walk I do the latter. If it is a short walk and I am hoping the baby will nap wherever we are going (like church play group), I do the former.
4) The dreaded grocery store trip. I avoid the grocery store altogether if I can, but if the need arises, certain protocols must be followed. Firstly, it has to be a time when the babes are all well rested and fed. Secondly, I take out the baby first and strap her on in the Ergo. Then, I let the two toddlers out. The older girls know that in parking lots if mommy is trying to help one and the other is already out, SHE MUST KEEP HER HANDS ON OUR CAR. Parking lots freak me out with toddlers. I have drilled into them that a car will hit them and give them big owies and if they are outside the car they either hold my hand or keep their hands on my car. (In other words, they have to stand with both hands on the outside of my car like they are being arrested and frisked.) I then drag them all to the grocery store and look for the carts with two kiddie seats. Costco is great because all of their carts have room for two kids. Whenever the bagger offers to help me take the groceries to my car, I give him/her a resounding YES.
5) If you are unsure about whether you should bring the stroller or not, BRING IT! Always err on the side of caution. Nothing is worse than getting lost in an enormous park in the extreme heat with two tired and hungry toddlers who cannot walk any more and having to lug them around and push the baby until you feel like your arms are going to fall off. Not that I have ever made a silly mistake like that.
6) Always enlist help if you can. It makes all the difference in the world to have another set of hands. And when we are doing a really involved trip, like to the zoo or aquarium, I like to have as many adults (or teenagers) as I have children. Anything where there are a lot of crowds and lines we have needed as many helping hands as we could get!
7) Know your limitations. If the very thought of an activity overwhelms me, I don’t do it. Trust your instincts. No one knows your limitations better than you do. Getting out with the littles is wonderful, but don’t overdo it. If you are not sure of how logistically it is going to work, or your helper backed out on you, or one of your toddlers has been an emotional wreck, just skip it. There is always tomorrow.