Another question that is asked of me quite often, is how I manage to go places by myself, with all four kids in tow. Honestly, it wasn't easy at first. I remember when Jake was born and it would take me 20 minutes just to get ready to get out of the house. I'd have all this gear, plus the baby carrier, the stroller, etc. I was worried about finding a good place to nurse him wherever we went and that would always be in the back of my mind (mall, restaurant, park, etc). I felt like I needed Adam to be with me, just so he could help/assist if something went wrong. Fast forward to life with 2 little ones and I kind of went through the same again. Until I realized that I couldn't live my life waiting for Adam to come with me. I needed to get out and about by myself. I needed to be brave.
The thing about getting out with kids, is that they don't really need everything that you thought you needed with just one. A few diapers & wipes, a spare set of clothes and a blanket or two will do. And the more you practice getting out, the easier it will be! It's weird, but the more kids we've added to our family, the braver I've become. Last summer, I was a bit crazy, and decided to take all four kids (including my 2-week old baby) to the zoo alone. I knew that it was going to be challenging...especially because I also had an 18 month old, but I also knew that if I did it, the next time I went out, I'd feel better about things. I packed up snacks. Oh, and by the way, snacks are the key to anything. When tears start, bickering ensues, boredom or heat sets in, there isn't anything a little snack won't cure. Anyway, the point is, the zoo trip went so well! I set myself up with low expectations. Even if we were only there 30 minutes, I'd challenged myself, gone out of my comfort zone and the next time, I knew I'd be more brave. We ended up being there 2 hours, thank goodness for the Ergo, I was able to nurse my baby while walking and pushing the double BOB. Mom of the year over here. Whoop.
Grocery store trips can be a little more challenging, but this is where the older siblings come in. My boys must walk. And, if at all possible, I pick a store where both my girls can be in the cart. This is why I love Costco. I also happen to love any store that has a "car cart" as we affectionately call them. Girls in cart, boys by my side, it's all good. When melt downs start to happen, we walk by the bakery and get free cookies. I only shop at stores with this perk because my kids will do anything for a free cookie. And, in the checkout line, I let them help me unload the groceries on to the conveyer belt. Not sure why they think this is a treat, but they totally do. I consider it a success if we get out of the store with minimal tears and I always have my boys help unload groceries as I buckle my girls in the car.
Parks are actually the hardest outing for me to do on my own, and that's mostly because it's difficult to supervise four kids on the playground at one time. What I try to do is find a playground that is fairly empty, so I can see all of them at one time. If we come across a park that's full, I set pretty firm rules with the boys. They have to stay together and if they lose sight of me, we set a meetup spot. Typcially, it will be my stroller, or a specific bench. My oldest is such a rule follower and we'll be playing and I'll look over and he's at my stroller. I asked him, "where's Brett?" and he points to him on the big toy, but Brett hasn't even given me a second thought. Jake, however, has checked into the spot every 5 minutes. Have I mentioned that my boys are so different from each other!?
Last week, I ventured out to a spray park that just opened this summer. I got there right when it opened at 10am, hoping that it wouldn't be crowded. And I was right. We were pretty much the first people there. Until a bus load of day-campers showed up at 10:30. I gave the boys my plan and they all did great. In fact, most of the time, the four of us stayed together because the boys wanted to play with the little girls in the water. Things got challenging because Molly really wanted to go on the swings, which couldn't be seen from the spray park area. This meant that we all had to swing, which meant Brett had to leave the spray park area. Anyone who knows Brett knows that the boy doesn't like to have to leave his activity for anything or anyone. We had a little come to Jesus talk and through tears he reluctantly followed. How do I handle this? I gave us a 10 minute timeline on the swings. Brett knew that after 10 minutes, we'd go back to the water. Molly knew that she had a limit on her swing time. When kids know their time limitations, they tend to be less reactive and go with the flow. It's not always the perfect system, but it tends to work for my kids.