At the grocery store yesterday the cashier called me “octomom” and I laughed but realized that with most kids in school during day, families probably don’t go out with their full squad and regalia as much anymore. I don’t think three kids is very many, but no matter where I go, I get the comment “well you have your hands full,” or “you must be busy.”
I usually just laugh and acknowledge that the person is intending to connect with me, but I cringe when these words come with overtones indicating the person assumes I must be overwhelmed or exhausted. I really enjoy being out and about, so usually when I run into these people I’m actually energized and having fun.
The implicit cultural expectation I can sometimes sense is that kids are an impediment to what adults want to do.
To me, it doesn’t feel weird or extraordinary to bring my kids along on all my adventures. It just makes sense. My kids and I study, play and work together; we spend much of our day on things that enrich all of our lives, like caring for the sheep, making with our hands, or tidying our space.
Our family has intentionally molded the kid agenda to be more accommodating to adult needs and vice versa. If I’m out with the kids I can’t make as many stops as I would if I were by myself: I do have to read my kids and give up on activities if everyone is too tired. But on the other hand, Justin and I have consistently brought them everywhere from their earliest days and nurtured their patience and flexibility so we could all live an active life together. I have no problem with promising special snacks for good behavior on a trip.
(And, assuming I behave as well as my kids do, I get a treat too!)
Do we have meltdowns: of course. But if things are going badly, it’s a moment to slow down, ask the kids to consider their feelings and then ask them to work with me (“are you hitting your sister because you’re feeling tired of walking through the feed store? Once we finish getting things for the sheep we can go. Can you help me pick out which color sheep halter?”)
How do you help keep your kids engaged when you’re out and about?