Keeping It Together When The Family Goes Out

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Family outings. “Do things together”, ”The family that plays together, stays together”. Whoever made these sayings up doesn’t realize how much work it is to go out with a family. Keeping track of people and their things is an absolute chore. But, don’t let that truth make outings obsolete. With some planning you can lessen the stress and find success!

The reality is, that there really are seasons in parenting. Some are more intense and rely on you to keep everything held together. There will come a season that each child (and even your husband) becomes more well trained and you start to approach these things with more unity and less chaos. The organization you learn and pass on to your family will be a solid life skill.

But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

1 Corinthians 14:40 NIV

Declare A Home Base

It doesn’t matter if I’m hosting or if we are the visitors, it seems that misplacement of belongings is a major issue with children. Everyone gets busy playing. Things get set down, shoes are removed, and then when it’s time to leave, panic ensues as you try to find everything. For my own sanity early on in our parenting, wherever we went, (Church, park, friends house, etc) I would declare a “Home Base”. During the stroller years, our stroller would be base. Sometimes I would choose the corner of a meeting room or against a wall. After a visual survey of our location, securing base provided a net for everything to fall into.

Declaring “Home Base” always gave a designated spot to put things. Often it would start with a diaper bag or any sort of item I had with me that would be recognizable to my family. Every time a coat came off, a craft project was made, or there was something special they wanted me to hold, I directed them straight to the base. It didn’t take long at all for them to recognize that this was our system.

When it was time to leave, though we did have a large pile, we did not have to waste time frantically searching for lost items. As a bonus, once I had declared that it was time to go, each child would know to stand at home base and stay there. Instead of wandering around visiting with friends, everyone knew to wait in one location. When I was ready to head to the van, we just needed to pick up base and move it along with us.

2011- Disneyland with 8 children 15 and under!

Limit What Goes With You

Fully admitting that I carry too much, I also understand that the more we haul, the more we need to keep track of. As much as possible, I like to leave things in the car as a backup resource. It just makes for less to lose along the way. For fast trips you may not need to carry a diaper bag into the store at all. However, it is wise to have all of the essentials in the car in case of emergency. Though a trip to the beach may seem to call for a lawn chair, towel and water bottle for each person, that is a lot to manage. Instead, go for “family style” and share.

The stages of your children will help guide you as to how much you need to be prepared. Though my youngest is now 6 and I don’t carry as many emergency items, I always have a few band aids, a nail file, tissues, a few safety pins and ibuprofen in my purse. I seldom need them but they are there when I do. When you have a baby or toddler, you will need to be a bit more prepared with snacks, drinks and emergency clothing since life with littles can be unpredictable. You know what your family tends to need. Be purposeful in anticipating your situation and you will have it covered.

Taking Care Of The Necessities

To jump straight to the point, naps, food and pee. When everyone is small, it is nice to limit trips to before or after nap times. It isn’t always possible though, especially if you have a span of ages in your home. The little one may get disrupted from his nap when big sister needs to go to piano lessons. Going to gramma’s house for Sunday lunch at 2 is a long stretch when everyone is used to eating lunch at noon. Situations come up that throw our schedules off. Sometimes naps just have to happen out of schedule. There’s always tomorrow to get back on track. It may not be perfect but it can be manageable. Setting naps aside, you can be more proactive with the other demands.

It seems that children are ALWAYS hungry. Take 3 minutes to slice up an apple, some carrots or some cheese before you walk out the door. Keep a stash of granola bars, fruit leather and nuts in the van. Overall, you will save money and maintain peace and happiness if you are one step ahead of your children’s tummies.

Working at summer camp as a teen gave me a head start on parenting skills.When managing a cabin full of children, I learned to, “Water them before and after meetings”. This meant both a little drink of water and a trip to the bathroom. (If they had to go or not!) Taking potty breaks as a group limits the emergency running and never ending trips to the bathroom. As I became a mom, I found this foundation to be invaluable in managing my tribe.

I always keep a snack box in the van for times we are caught in town by surprise. (I also keep the goats well fed. My van is big enough to haul hay but, not so easy to clean it out!)

Ordering In Restaurants

One of the most convenient things about eating at home is the limited choices to be made. Whenever we go out, my head spins with the options and keeping track of each person’s preferences. Managing it takes all the fun out of such a special occasion. Ordering family style at a “sit-down” restaurant has always been our preference. However, when we do go through fast food, I have two methods to employ.

The list- Simply put, write everyone’s name or initial down on the left side of a piece of paper. (I write down the names so no one gets overlooked.) Beside each name, record their choice and then one parent can go to the register to put in the order. You can limit “I changed my mind syndrome” by sending an adult or older sibling with everyone else to find a table while one person stays back, reading the list off to the cashier. The list method is perfect when in a drive through and it’s handy when it comes to distributing the meal.

The line- This one is genius if I do say so myself. (I love keeping things orderly when I can!) I stand first in line, my husband at the end, children in between. Each child tells the worker their order (with my oversight to clear up any potential misunderstandings). When finished ordering, the child moves to my other side. When the children have all transferred sides I give my order then walk away with the children to be seated. My husband follows up with his own order and paying the bill. Using this method we have never forgotten to order for someone (because we didn’t want to repeat the time that we did!) Often we just allow each child an entree. It is always a surprise to see what sort of extras Daddy may add on at the end of the order for everyone to share.

It would be nice if a restaurant was as relaxing as our home but the reality is that it’s not. Keeping everyone at the table works best for us. If we need to get our own utensils, napkins and drinks, we send a runner. This could be either a parent or one of our teens. The little ones have too many fumbles to navigate through a restaurant if we can avoid it. Bathroom needs always call for the buddy system. We just live in a world that requires vigilance. So though at home, our children can take care of their own bathroom needs, in public we always go in pairs. For a short time this may seem cumbersome but this system should give you some peace of mind.

You Can Do This!

Yep. It may be out of your comfort zone. It may not come naturally to you. Nevertheless, you are adding new things to your mom skills all the time. Why not make a plan, organize and be ready for adventure?!

What do you do to keep organized when out with your family? Do you have any tips that keep the “fun” in a family fun outing?

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