Fun family outings should also be called parenting suicide missions. I’m not kidding. As you prepare for your next family adventure, whether it be the farmers market on a Saturday morning, a concert series one evening after work, or an air show on Sunday, don’t ignore that feeling deep down in your “mommy gut” that things are going to end really bad for you.
Why? Because parenting little humans is hard. They are unpredictable, moody, and messy creatures who rely on you for every need and want. And that is exhausting. Period.
Like most parents, I want to do fun things with my kids. I want to watch them frolic and laugh together in the evenings and on weekends, because honestly, I miss the little monsters so much while at work during the week.
Life is filled with so many fun opportunities for family togetherness. My hopes are usually set really high as I prepare to bring my munchkins out into public for some good ol’ fashioned fun.
That being said, by the end of each outing, I usually wish that I had followed my instincts and just stayed home, filling the hours by throwing cups into our plastic swimming pool for my kids Riley and Bode to play with, while rewarding myself for a parenting win on the deck with an ice-cold Corona (day drinking is acceptable on weekends, OK?).
Instead, I rarely listen to my gut and try to do “fun” things. Though these things can be really enjoyable, there are some lessons that I’ve learned the hard way.
First, if your day is feeling difficult before you’ve even left the house, it will be 1,000 times more difficult when you are changing a blown-out diaper in the trunk of your car. I mean it: Stay home. I can just hear the excuses, “But, what about … ?” No. Stay home. I’m telling you, it is for the best. I am saving you from hours of misery and your 3-year-old saying, “My back is hot Mommy,” “I’m thirsty Mommy,” “I want to go home Mommy,” three minutes after you arrived at your destination.
Next, be prepared. Bring ample snacks, extra diapers, clothes, hats, sunscreen, water bottles, and bribes. And if it is a late-night fun session, bring jammies. Transferring sleeping children into their beds after an exhausting night of fun is like a parent’s fantasy (similar to sleeping in or drinking coffee while it is still hot). It is amazing and very rare. Take advantage of it.
You’ve been warned: Don’t expect to eat or drink anything while on your fun outing. I’ve tried. I went to the farmers market a few weekends ago with my sisters for a morning out of the house. I tried to have an egg sandwich and an iced coffee while I was there. I put my sandwich down for a minute in the wagon and turned my back to grab Bode before he put his hand in the garbage, and Riley threw it on the ground while defiantly saying, “I was sitting there.”
A little disappointed, I turned around, thankful that my ice coffee was still a viable option just in time to see Bode emptying it into the dirt and smiling as he proudly tried to poke his cousin in the face with the straw. You will leave hungry — that isn’t a question — but I’ve found that it helps to know this in advance. That way you can prepare yourself for the disappointment and “hangry” pains that will ultimately follow.
Always remember that it’s all fun and games until it’s not. What do I mean by that? Well, things can be going along like gravy, your kids can be snacking, laughing, dancing, and then, boom, meltdown time hits and we all (myself included) turn into cranky, whiny, crying pumpkins.
Word to the wise: Leave while you’re still having fun. You’ll appreciate this unpopular decision later.
Kids are tinier versions of us. They need breaks, too. After being schlepped to day care, school, or play groups all week, they sometimes just want to stay home. They want to run around the house in their undies or diapers with yogurt from breakfast still covering their faces (and most of their bodies).
They want to jump on the bed and watch cartoons without being told “We are in a hurry” or “Please get dressed” a million times. They want to play with their own toys and each other (if siblings are involved), since they don’t get to do so during the week.
In the end, they just want to have fun, and that won’t happen when Mommy is completely stressed out and shedding tears over her now-dirt-covered breakfast sandwich, you know what I mean?
Sometimes, staying home is the fun option. And home usually has wine, beer, and a clean bathroom. Parenting win!
For more from Jenna Stewart, visit Motherhood With a Twist of OCD and her Facebook page.