I wrote a post last year about how I was stuck in a parenting rut and was simply not emotionally equipped to handle anything other than the demands of every day life with my children. I knew that it was a temporary stage of parenting (as they all are) and that I just had to ride it out until my old adventurous self was ready for a come back. The change happened slowly, without me even realizing it. But one day I noticed that I was much less overwhelmed by my children and more ready for some fun! What brought about this change you ask? Simply put, the youngest got older, easier to be around and more transportable. Apparently a year makes a big difference and having a 4, 6 and 8 year old is a world apart from a 3, 5 and 7 year old.
I read an article recently about a “Parenting Sweet Spot” that seems to occur in between preschool and puberty. I realized, “THIS IS ME!!!” I am in my parenting sweet spot! It all makes sense! Things that I thought unimaginable one year ago are all of a sudden possible to me. I can take three kids into New York City, get them around, have fun and bring home the same three children in relatively one piece.
Several factors go into the parenting sweet spot: you don’t need a diaper bag; no kids need a nap; the ability to travel light; the understanding that anything you need can be purchased at a drug store; your oldest has not yet hit puberty and subsequent teenage angst; the intrinsic trust in yourself to keep your people alive. These things are all earned in Motherhood….it’s like your badge of courage.
So here I am, encouraging you all to be patient with yourselves if you are at home with little ones and feeling overwhelmed by the day to day demands. If you aren’t there yet, your adventurous time will come. If you are there, I sure as heck hope that you are enjoying yourself and patting yourself on the back.
Here are a few tips that I have learned about adventuring with my children…
1. Contain as many children as possible. I am all about free range parenting…until I am in a crowded place and only have so many hands. When I am adventuring alone with my kids, you can bet that I am still using a stroller. The 4 year old barely fits in the seat but it’s good enough, the 6 year old uses the glider board and the 8 year old has one hand on the Mommy Hook. I don’t need a wandering kid on the streets of New York. And hey, I get a serious arm workout pushing the darn thing.
2. Pack your backpack wisely. Only the necessities, whatever that may be for you, but keep it light. Personally, I don’t leave home without hats, snacks for myself, Goldfish crackers, Benadryl, puke bags, sanitizer, lip gloss, and those silly little Play Packs that you get for $1 in the checkout line at Michaels.
3. Set clear guidelines for your children. Make it clear that everyone needs to stay together. Have a plan if a kid gets lost. Tell them that you promised Daddy that you are bringing home all children alive and accounted for.
4. Have zero expectations for your adventure. Like, really zero. Because then you are surprised when it turns out great! I recently took all three kids on a Circle Line cruise around the Statue of Liberty. I held zero expectations for our adventure and it turned out amazing. (Okay, truth be told, I forgot a sweater and the 6 year old complained she was freezing the whole time, and the 8 year old worried about the 4 year old falling overboard the whole time, but overall, it was amazing!) We were having so much fun that we walked up to Central Park in search of the carousel, just because it sounded like a good idea. A few weeks later, I took all three kids up to Mystic, CT for an overnight and had a beautiful mental image of how lovely it would all be to road trip and share a hotel room. Go figure, it didn’t live up to my mental picture. I got cocky and started to get ahead of myself with expectations. Rookie mistake. Next adventure = no expectations.
5. Take a ton of pictures of yourself out seeking adventure with your children. Because you are amazing. And heck, just suck it up and ask a nice stranger to take a picture of you with your children, because you were there and you made it all happen for these people. Even if they tantrum and puke, you had good intentions for a fun day!
6. Embrace your sweet spot because one day, hormones will hit your children and the teenage years will bring a whole new set of challenges for you to navigate as a parent.
What are your tips for family adventuring? Have you hit your parenting sweet spot yet?