Thursday, March 22, 2012

Taking the kids on an outing, or Why Even Bother

My brother Daniel is a mystery to me. Not a total mystery, mind you. I get his dry wit (usually), disdain of government, and general desire to avoid baby-sitting and cats.

But I don't get his love of congestion.

Recently I was waxing contentedly about where we live...mountains all around, countryside and farms everywhere, a quaint bustling downtown with local food and musicians.

He visibly shuddered. "Ewww," he replied, his teeth set on edge. "I KNOW! I hate going to visit you. The hills through every neighborhood! The boring fields after fields! Give me skyscrapers! Give me traffic! Give me box stores!"

If I didn't know better, I would have thought he was joking.

But he wasn't.

There are only two hours of travel that physically separate us.  But those two hours bring a change in terrain, a change in population, and a change in life's pace. All the things I hate and that make me stressed -- shopping, traffic, building after building after building -- he loves and finds beauty in.

Don't ask me how.

Ethan reminded me that Daniel is not, in fact, a thirty-something mother of eight. Rather, he is a twenty-something bachelor, and that probably figures heavily into the equation.

But I still feel like we're speaking different languages. What does he MEAN he likes traffic? What on earth does that even MEAN? Those words don't even make sense together!

This post is not for him.

We recently took a family outing. For years I've found wisdom in Edith Schaeffer's advice to seek the natural for a retreat. Get away from the buildings, the merchants, the reminders of man.

For our family, this works best. Being out in nature means many stresses are removed. If a kid has a runny nose and no tissue? Find a leaf. If a kid is fussy about not getting a turn with the play phone? Play with a leaf. And even if you can't find a leaf, there are no crowds to disdainfully watch the drama called "This Is Our Life" unfold.

I know there are those who enjoy museums and libraries and malls and galleries. I know there are those who take their children, and a good time is had by all.

I am not one of those.

Oh, I enjoy the library (sometimes), sans children. But I am a closet museum-hater (maybe too many field trips in my youth?) and never really got into the gallery scene. And the only good mall in my opinion is one with an Orange Julius near the entrance.

I do seem to be rather uncultured.

Still, a good outing does wonders for the family's morale. Just getting outside ... of the house, and of the normal ... can make coming home a restful, welcome thing. Leaving the chores and the chickens (but not the children!) for a quick retreat is a good reminder that we do more than share dirt and duties. And a good outing for us is usually defined by these things:

  1. Can we take the dog? I guess this could also be called factoring to the lowest denominator. If we can take the dog, then surely the 2-yr. olds will be tolerated.
  2. Can we get there in an hour or less? We do take more extended trips, but these are very very rare. For a day trip, an hour is about all we can handle. After that, kids are fussy, adults are tired of answering questions (or saying, "No more questions!"), and there is always the thought that we will have to make the return trip after trying to muster up enough energy to enjoy whatever it is we're there to do in the first place.
  3. What'll we do about dinner? Sometimes it just works best to bite the bullet and hit the dollar menu. Or actually enjoy our food and hit a different haunt. I understand it's such a faux pas to admit that we do drive-thru, but I've already admitted to being uncultured. And the reality is that the hour it can take to prepare a lunch (even a simple one, like sandwiches and fruit) for ten people is sometimes more than can be handled in the middle of trying to make sure everyone is clothed, pottied, wearing the proper shoes, and has seen a hairbrush in the last week. I figure the money we save in not paying for parking or a membership to wherever can be safely allocated here. And then I don't worry about it. Or I do, and it takes us forever to pass out food in the van, the kids complain about whatever I've fixed, and we all end up hungry anyway. All I'm saying is it's best to just go with your gut (ha!). If I'm up for fixing something, fine. If not, fine. But be prepared for the stop for food, and don't get all bent out of shape about it. Just chew and don't think.
  4. How much is the destination going to cost? Here, I am talking about the actual destination, not gas or drinks, etc. I know there are those who never go anywhere because of the cost of gas, but we've chosen not to let that stop us. It may shorten the trip, but if the alternative is staying home forever and going crazy, I'll pay for the gas. But here I am talking about the destination. Is there an individual/family/car fee? Because if there is, and it's hefty, we may want to skip it. At this stage in our family, we can't guarantee we'll last longer than fifteen minutes (especially at the types of places that require payment), and the money will have been wasted. On the other hand, the drive can still be pleasant. Even whining can be drowned out by Johnny Cash.
  5. What about naptime? For some of our babies, this really didn't figure into the equation. If naptime came, I would sling them or stroll them (the ones who liked the stroller) and it was no biggie. However, there have been those children that make the entire outing miserable if it happens during their normal naptime. Both sets of twins have been notorious for this. So for them, we plan for the trip to be a shorter one and we adjust their naptime accordingly.
  6. What do we have to do when we get home? Are there going to have to be baths, cleaning for company, etc.? Is tomorrow Sunday? Since Ethan is a pastor, we pretty much try to stay home Saturday afternoons. This gives me time to help children find clothes for Sunday, get Sunday's lunch semi-prepared, and do a general pick-up. The children can all have their baths, and Ethan can spend solid time in sermon preparation.
So that's our informal checklist. As with most things that I've written, I'm not sure what the point of it is, except to clarify in my own mind that, "Hey! This IS what works for us, and that's OK!" I'm not saying it should work for anyone else, but if it does, you're not alone.

And if it doesn't?

You're not alone, either.

There's always Daniel.


  1. I have no private way to contact you, could you send me your e-mail? wiglife [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks.

  2. Except that we have four not eight (I mean nine) :) your description of the ins and outs of a good family outing work for us, too! As someone very astute once remarked to me, the best kind of field trip is one that involves an actual field!

  3. Love this post! After being somewhat house-bound for the past several months I am eager to hit the road. I do have a question, though. Our twins are almost 8 months & have just settled into a good nap routine (FINALLY!) I feel like we're kind of trapped--they will miss a nap either way even if we do a short trip. Maybe we just need to bite the bullet & skip a nap, but I'm not sure if it would be worth it? It was so easy going places with just four kids, but these twins have thrown us for a loop. Also, do you ever take trips alone w/kids or does your husband always help. I can't imagine going much of anywhere by myself w/everyone. Thanks!

  4. Sara,

    You are not alone! And...this too shall pass!

    I think things get a LOT easier with twins once they start walking well. I only just last week took all the kids by myself for the first time in a very long time. It is extremely hard to take everyone when your youngest are twins and are still so little. You have to carry them everywhere, and that is EXHAUSTING. Just getting everyone out to the van is EXHAUSTING.

    I am not joking when I say that many, many times our "outings" have just been a trip to Starbucks drive-thru, when we would get venti passion teas split into however many short cups for the kids and iced coffees for my husband and me. We would put on a CD we (the adults, usually) wanted to hear, take the back roads, dream about houses we passed, sometimes find a remote enough place that everyone could get out and run around for a bit and no one else was there to gawk or hear the fussy babies in the stroller, and head back home. That little bit of being away from the house was so refreshing!!

    But it's not the time for huge field trips. Around here, fussy babies make for a frazzled mom, and no one enjoys that trip.

    But this is just a phase! It is!

    At least, saying that gives me hope. :)

  5. Thanks, Rachel for the encouraging words. Much appreciated!


Related Posts with Thumbnails
Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Detection Tool