If you have multiple young children close together in age – or twins or triplets – then you’ll understand how challenging it is to take them all out on your own. After having a chat about it on Twitter recently, I realised that people who don’t have children, or who only have one child, often can’t comprehend the challenges we face on a daily basis. I thought I’d write a little post about the subject to explain some of fun and games that having three children under five brings with it.
In case you missed it, I wrote this guest post for the Snoozeshade blog last year about having three children under three. Time has passed and I now have a pair of 4.5yo boys and a 20mth old girl, but going out can still be very tricky. Taking E out alone is fine, and taking the boys out alone is (mostly) fine, but putting all three together can be a recipe for disaster.
Top five challenges for going out solo with multiple young children
1) Having lunch in a cafe
Lunch sounds like a relaxing thing to do, right? Wrong! Imagine the scene: We’re all in a cafe having lunch. T1 pipes up that he wants to go to the toilet. I have to stop E from eating and take her out of the high chair (which makes her scream), I have to ask T2 to leave his half-eaten meal to follow me to the toilet. He doesn’t want to go so he argues with me. T1 is hopping around desperate for a wee while all of this is going on. I scribble a note to the waiting staff not to clear the table because I’m coming back. T1 shouts that he now needs to do a poo and it’s coming! By the time I’ve persuaded T2 to leave the table, carried the baby, my handbag and the changing bag (just in case) to the toilet, and tried to stop the boys from running across the restaurant, I’m hot, sweaty and exhausted. I go inside the toilets to find the smallest cubicle I’ve ever seen in my life and now four people and my bags need to fit in there. T1 goes to the toilet. T2 says he doesn’t want to go, so we all wash hands and head back to finish our lunch. Just as we start tucking in, T2 decides he now has to go. We repeat the process again. Ten minutes later, T1 decides the novelty of a cafe toilet is too much for him and demands to go again. We finally all sit down to finish our meal and then I realise E needs a nappy change, which means dragging two boys who don’t need the toilet back to the baby change. Once inside I have to simultaneously stop them from messing about with the nappy bin/toilet flush/emergency pull cord (or whatever fun things they can find in there) while trying to hold down a wriggling, screaming baby who definitely doesn’t want a nappy on. Even with two pairs of hands this scenario is exhausting, but flying solo…I’d rather not bother with the panini, thanks.
2) Going to soft play
Even braving the relative safety of soft play on your own is tricky when you add a baby into the equation. It’s a lot of fun up until the point when it’s time to leave. If you have one child you can go and find them, hold their hand and walk them out. With two children you can get one, hold their hand and then seek out the other and walk them out. With a baby and two children, it’s mission impossible. You can capture one child and get their coat on but while you’re hunting down the second, the first has taken their coat off and run off to play on the slides again, and all the while you’ve got a wriggling baby in your arms who wants to escape too! There’s only one way to get everyone out in one piece: bribery! Then the walk home is a whole other issue…
3) Going out for a walk
Walking is usually a great way to burn off some energy, so I’m obviously a big fan given I have a pair of energetic boys. However, when they’re tired it can turn horribly wrong very quickly. I can almost get away with balancing one on the front of the buggy, but that means leaving one to walk thus creating more arguments, so it’s easier to just force them both to keep walking and endure the agony of crying all the way home. This usually ends up with one of them sitting on the pavement crying while I pretend to carry on home without them. In turn, this makes the other child hysterical as they believe I really am leaving their brother behind. It would almost be cute and amusing if I didn’t want to sit on the ground and cry myself.
Then there are the moments (which thankfully happen a lot less often now they’re older) when one or (both!) kids have the devil in them and decide to run off. You can’t just drop everything to chase after them as you’ve got a baby and another child to think about – you have to make an instant decision about who is in the most danger and who to chase after. Picking which child to save is never an easy decision!!
4) Going shopping
I’m not even going to comment on why shopping with multiple small people is hard. Just don’t try it unless you can find a trolley large enough to fit them all in! And even then only try it if you’re a fan of screaming and bribery (in that order).
5) Taking a trip to the park
Yes, to the untrained eye a park is a safe and fun place to take your children. And some parks are great, but others are just awful if you have multiple children. If they aren’t fenced, then you’ve got to watch each of them like a hawk to make sure they don’t escape. Even with a gate, there can sometimes be hidden exits (remember this post about when we lost T2 last year after he escaped out of the park down a secret fireman’s pole?) Keeping a crowd of kids together is impossible unless you tie them together, and apparently that is branded as child cruelty. So instead you have to somehow watch all of them at the same time, which involves constantly glancing from one to the other, and then running between them all to make sure one doesn’t fall off something or get knocked over by the swings. By the time you get home, you’re more than ready for a stiff drink.
How to make me happy!
So, if you ever invite us out somewhere and I say no, please don’t be offended; it’s probably because I’m trying to keep my children alive, preserve my sanity, or a combination of the two. With this gang to look after, can you blame me?!
PS If you find somewhere that has fences with only one exit, opens spaces to run around, swings that detect when a small person is about to run in front of them AND coffee (or even better, wine) on tap then please let me know!