Friday, 3 June 2016

The Five Ages of Outings with Children

Oh my god, it's been half term here this week and I had forgotten just how dull and annoying that can be when a) you are the one stuck at home entertaining the children and b) the nice weather has decided to do one.

Anyway, it wasn't raining yesterday and so I thought we'd go to the park.  I mean, it isn't as if we've spent a lot of time there already this week - it was only our third visit (and probably not the last) *sigh*

The funny thing about spending two hours in a freezing cold, windy children's playground is that you spend a lot of time people watching.  And you realise that everyone at the park is either doing, or has probably done the same kind of things with their children as you have with yours.  It's like some kind of magic formula, or if you prefer, the awful truth that there is no escaping each one of the different stages of getting out and about with your kids.

And as I've nothing better to do, I have decided to immortalise it all in a blog post for future reference.

1.  The baby years

Have you got the pram, the matching changing bag, a parasol and a footmuff just in case?  Make sure that you load everything into the car boot (you may not be able to fit anything else in but who cares?).  Then, realise that you haven't packed the changing bag with essentials and get the whole lot out again.  Pack changing bag with enough changes of clothes, bottles of formula and baby wipes to survive a nuclear apocalypse.  Play a quick game of car boot tetris while you try to fit everything back into the boot.  Squeeze door shut by leaning against it. Is your infant carrier compatible with your pram?  Forget the fact that you have paid a small fortune for a pushchair that does it all (and all in style and complete ergonomic comfort) because when you get to wherever you are going, we all know that putting the infant car seat on the chassis is the only way anybody is going to get any peace and quiet.  Get in the car.  Realise that compared to you, Lawrence of Arabia packed less for his journey across the desert, but that doesn't matter.  You are going to ace this quick trip to Tesco Express which is only five minutes away from your actual home.  The baby?  You did put the baby in the car seat didn't you?  Go back into your house and get the baby.  Right.  You are ready. And yet, somewhat exhausted.

2.  The toddler workout

Stepping anywhere outside your front door with a toddler or two is essentially crowd control.  Prepare for this first by watching an episode or two of One Man and his Dog to give yourself an idea of how to approach the task at hand.  Once out, watch enviously as other toddler-free people walk in straight lines while looking utterly calm at all times.  You, on the other hand will be zig-zagging across everyone's path at top speed while yelling at the top of your lungs for the toddler to STOP!  Just when it feels like this might never end, the toddler will stop, suddenly and lie face down on the ground refusing to move.  You will be forced to carry their dead-weight body home.  This isn't anything like the relaxing, fun quality time you thought it would be, but it is good exercise.

3.  Pre-schoolers rule

Going out with a pre-schooler is a bit like going everywhere with a very large and vocal magnifying glass in hand as they have to examine in minute detail absolutely everything they come across (and then tell everybody they meet within a 10 metre radius about it).  This is blood-boilingly annoying quite time consuming if you happen to be in a hurry to actually get to your destination.  That is if you even set foot outside your own home of course.  Don't forget that pre-schoolers are also masters of subterfuge when it comes to such tasks as finding their shoes, putting on their shoes, wearing coats and very often wearing any clothes at all. Joy.

I will give you sweets/an ice-cream/a kitten if you just let us leave this freezing cold tsunami-fest...

4.  The kids are alright

They get their shoes when asked, they put their coats on, they seem genuinely happy about going anywhere with you.  It's like a blissful dream after the initial years of torture and despair.  Bigger kids really are alright, aren't they?  Or, is this just another of their Jedi-like mind tricks?  Well, kinda.  You see, you may be able to get them to where you are going, the supermarket, the park, wherever.  But, just you try and leave before they want to.  It's nearly impossible.  I say nearly because there is always one thing guaranteed to make them agree.  Bribery.  The park seemed like a really good idea, until you've been there for longer than everyone else (and the sun has been replaced by, ooh, maybe a small tsunami or other typical British weather).  Don't they know you're missing Judge Rinder for this???  And as you look at your watch with an overwhelming feeling of despondency, you know there is only one thing for it... "Does anyone want some sweets?"  This ensures that any request to leave is met with unbridled enthusiasm.  It may cost you in monetary terms but it's still been cheaper than a trip to the dreaded soft play (and you can watch the Judge on catch up...). Win/Win.

Enjoying your day out?  I know you are freezing cold but at least you aren't eating the contents of the fridge
(but oh, the guilt!)

5.  Teenage dreams

Ahh, teenagers.  So thoughtful, so responsible, such a pleasure to be around, especially on family outings.  In your dreams...  Teenagers don't like being seen with their nearest and dearest for some reason.  Which is odd, seeing as they rely on us for so many things (such as endless quantities of food and Wifi).  You'd think they would be more enthusiastic about spending time with their generous benefactors, wouldn't you?  If however, you do manage to prize them away from their XBox/Snapchat for a trip outside you will probably find that you have similar issues to the Pre-School years in that they refuse point blank to wear any form of coat.  Even if the temperature is approaching minus figures.  So you have two choices.  Watch them freeze or leave them at home (I'm sure this is a clever ruse so that they don't have to be parted from the Wifi).  Choose the former and you feel like a terrible parent, the latter and you will have no food left in the house on your return.  Buy a padlock for the fridge.  It's the only way.

I am so looking forward to Monday morning, when I can leave the house on my own (at least during the six hours the children are all at school).  For one thing, I need to re-stock the fridge and buy a padlock.  There's not long now until the Summer holidays...

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