Today is the last day of the Utah State Fair. We have nothing scheduled today beyond one errand and the fact that Kyle needs sleep and I need to work. In theory, we could totally go to the fair. Or we could go to Oktoberfest at Snowbird since our weekends are jam-packed for the next couple of months and this is probably our only opportunity to go. Or we could take advantage of the zoo membership we recently renewed. Basically, we have places to go.
I’m 85% sure we’re not going anywhere today.
Outings with kids are kind of a pain, at least at this age. For about the first year of Eva’s life, we kept taking her out places so that we could expose her to the world and now we have a long list of SLC locations where we have paid money to do something and all ended up miserable.
Don’t get me wrong. I actually really like taking the kids out. Eva is at a great age to get excited about stuff and Calvin is easier to handle when he’s strapped into a stroller and distracted than he is when he’s tearing up our house. It’s just. Not. Simple. Anymore. And most of our mistakes have frustratingly been OUR mistakes and not the fault of our kids. So that’s fun.
Here are 6 mistakes we’ve made that completely ruined outings with our kids:
1 /// We left the house depleted. There is nothing that will sink an outing faster than walking out of the house while someone is desperate for sleep or food. Obviously, taking an exhausted and/or starving kid into the world is asking for trouble, but we’re usually smarter than that. Where we’ve slipped up repeatedly is not realizing that one of us (as in the parental units) is exhausted or starving. It is very frustrating to finally get everyone together and out the door and to the thing and in the gate only to realize that every hard surface looks like a bed and if you don’t get a sandwich in the next ten minutes you’re going to go all Incredible Hulk on everyone.
2 /// We left the house on a tight schedule. Ugh, huge mistake. This usually happens when we have awkward blocks of time before other events or when we’re trying to meet up with someone else at the event and accommodate their schedule. Inevitably, that’s the day that we can’t find parking or the kids won’t put their shoes on or they’re in the mood to play while we’re trying to rush around. It’s the worst feeling to take your family out and then be mad at them because they aren’t having fun according to a set timeline.
3 /// We left the house without snacks. So stupid and somehow we still do it occasionally. Not only do I like to pack snacks, I like to pack enough snacks to constitute a full meal of each of us WITH dessert. There are few things that an applesauce pouch and a bag of crackers won’t help (and I’m talking about the kids AND the parents here). And don’t forget the bottles of water! EVER!
4 /// We left the house without an emergency kit. In addition to snacks and Eva’s medicine, we always have diapers, wipes, extra clothes for each kid, different shoes for Eva, two plastic grocery bags, a few empty ziploc bags, sunscreen, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, band-aids, and a few only-in-emergencies toys that might buy us ten minutes of peace. Yes, our diaper bag is ridiculous. In fact, we often take two diaper bags. It beats needing any of that stuff mid-meltdown.
5 /// We left the house without doing our research. This problem doesn’t happen too often because we live in Utah and almost everything is family-friendly, but we have occasionally found ourself in the awkward position of having dragged the kids somewhere that isn’t really designed for kids. This means concerts that they wouldn’t enjoy, restaurants that don’t even keep high chairs in the building, and any festival or convention where the point is to drink alcohol and be loud and wear very little clothing. Beyond the fact that these aren’t always great things to expose the kids to, I actually get stressed when I realize that we’re probably putting a damper on someone else’s fun with our double stroller. No bueno.
6 /// We left the house without being on the same team. Again, this doesn’t come up too often but it has definitely happened over the last three years. If you and your partner are mid-fight or if you really, really, really don’t want to go and do whatever it is the other person wants to do, it is a safe bet that your outing will suck. It’s one thing to make an effort for the sake of the kids or your spouse at something that you find a little lame/boring. It’s another thing to consciously spend the day not dealing with your fight because you’ve now paid to be in public at this thing you dragged yourself to or to tag along to an event that you’re so uninterested in you will inevitably ruin it for the person who wanted to go. Again, a rarity but we’ve done both. Don’t be like us.
Bonus tip: being experimental on an outing doesn’t usually pay off. I’m not talking about trying new food or seeing new things. I’m talking about trying to shake up your family’s routine because it would be more convenient this new way. For example, deciding on the fly that your kid can probably take a nap on a bench if you put your sweatshirt down – not going to work if your kid isn’t used to adventurous naps. Or thinking that your kid can drink cold milk in the bottle for the first time ever because you won’t have any way to warm it while you’re out. Yes, you can try this and you might be successful, but if you have no back up plan and your kid won’t drink the cold milk and now you’re out and they’re screaming and you have nothing to feed them that they’re willing to eat? Fail.
For example, my friend Nate was in town last weekend and it just happened to be during Salt Lake City’s Comic Con so we spent a ton of time downtown checking out all the happenings. On Friday, we all went downtown (my brother included) and had a good time. On Saturday morning, Eva had a birthday party that Kyle was taking her to and Nate and I decided to head down to Comic Con with Calvin. I didn’t want to deal with the stroller (it had been a little crowded the day before) so I decided to take our baby carrier and wear Calvin through the expo.
This plan assumed (A) Calvin would be fine even though he hasn’t been in the baby carrier since he was six weeks old, (B) I would be fine wearing my massive tank of a boy, (C) if I wasn’t fine, I’d be able to trade off as seamlessly with Nate as I can with Kyle, (D) Calvin would nap in the baby carrier since we’d be there during his nap time, and (E) the convention would be the same on Saturday as it was on Friday.
Ok, none of that was true. For one, Comic Con was much more crowded on Saturday so it was harder to move around. Two, Calvin didn’t want to be in the baby carrier and expressed himself by grabbing fistfuls of my hair and screaming in my face. Three, I was so desperate to get him to sleep I ended up stranded at the back of the expo for more than an hour trying to shush Calvin in the midst of the chaos while Nate navigated through the things he wanted to see. Four, with Calvin having not slept and me desperate for a bathroom break, we strapped Calvin to Nate only to realize that this was unacceptable to Calvin and probably one of the meaner things I could have done to Nate. Nothing like showing love to one of your best friends by strapping your screaming infant to his chest.
Ultimately, we left the expo. Calvin and I had seen nothing and he was beyond exhausted so we all had to wait for him to nap for a while before the whole group could try again. We ended up heading back with Kyle and Eva much later than we thought we would and only had about an hour to walk around, but we brought snacks and the kids had slept and we had no expectations so it was still a great time.
That’s probably my last piece of advice when taking your kids out. Lower that bar. Just drop it right down. If you all got back home in one piece, that’s a great day.
Some photos (and Nate’s video!) from SLC Comic Con: