Some time ago I had to take 4,000 Above Rubies magazines to the Post Office. It was in 700 envelopes, 12 boxes with between 50 to 300 magazines and 25 international envelopes. It is always a challenge and takes quite some time - the bulk orders need to be weighed and a few stickers need to be put on, this done by the Post Office Assistant. The international envelopes, also need to be weighed and postage stamps added. Each international envelope needs between 3-5 stamps, depending on the availability of stamps in the right value, and these I have to put on by myself. This time I had to take my 5 little ones, ages between 8 and 2years old with me.
The older children had a tennis camp.
They behaved very well, sitting on a blanket at my feet, paging through picture books I took along, nibbling on nuts, while I put stamps on the envelopes and waited for everything to be weighed and paid for.
This wasn’t the first time I had to take all 5 little ones with me to a mall or supermarket. It happens often, I actually love to take them with me, and show off a little. :-)
How do I prevent outings and errands to end in total chaos? Little ones running, climbing and screaming like wild beasts or nagging constantly? I thought I would share with you some routines and secrets I’ve came to implement over the years.
I try as far as possible to stay in a weekly rhythm with outings. This way they, as well as I, know when and what to expect during the week and we can plan accordingly;
NO Sugar the day before outings and never MSG foods:
Sugar is a mind altering drug, and my children transform into hyperactive balls when they have sugar. Needless to say sugar is ONLY for high days and holidays. MSG is a neurotoxin, stimulant and toxic to the brain and we never allow our children to have anything with MSG!
A balanced meal before we leave:
Whether our outing is in the morning or the afternoon, our regular breakfast or lunch which contains of a protein and starch will prevent blood sugar fluctuation. Blood sugar fluctuation is often the cause of bad behavior;
Time of the day:
Over the years I’ve learned to choose a time of the day, I know my little ones are at their best. Not before nap time, nor near mealtimes. I’ve observed babies and small toddlers are at their best just after a nap;
As putting on shoes are part of leaving, so is visiting the toilet. For the very little ones, there is always an older sibling who take responsibility to check that they visit the toilet. While in the supermarket or mall, I will plan visits to the restrooms before it become an emergency;
A Nutritious Snack:
I always have a nutritious snack with me, preferably a combined food, like nuts or organic sausage or a nut butter sandwich. I try not to give fruit alone, it easily spikes their blood sugar levels and cause them to be hyperactive. And if I have nothing else, I’ll take bananas, instead of grapes. I never buy sweet treats or snacks containing sugar or MSG while in the shops. They are trained from the moment they can understand, that sugar and MSG alter their brains; and cause them to be more susceptible to infection, lower their immune system and therefore they won’t even ask. It is actually quite funny to be in hearing distance when we walk through the payment aisle and overhear all their comments on sweets and potato snacks!
Length of outing:
I always take into account their ability to cope with the level of noise, visual stimulation and lack of movement when in the shops and plan the length of our outing accordingly. When Andrew (my now almost 7 year old) was a baby and toddler, it was almost impossible to take him to the supermarket or a mall. He just couldn’t handle all the visual stimulation and couldn’t stand the level of noise. Christo had to accompany me on outings to the mall and he would sit with Andrew at our favourite coffee shop, waiting for us to finish our shopping. Going to the supermarket was a nightmare, I had to prepare myself for at least one outburst, and took it in my stride, assuring myself, this will pass too, and yes, it did.
It is especially important to know my children’s personalities and don’t stretch them till they blow their tops. My one child cannot handle it when his personal space is entered and is very independent. He is my barometer to indicate when our time is running out. I rather leave while he is still having a good time and go again, if I’m not finished shopping yet. This way it stays a positive experience;
Next meal ready:
On our way home, I always try to have another snack in the car, and if possible the next meal ready at home, especially if go for an outing in the morning and only arrive back home near meal and nap time. It spare you the stress of preparing a meal, with grumpy, hungry, tired, overstimulated children;
When I only had CJ, I would talk to him all the way to an outing, shopping mall or supermarket. I would tell him exactly what he can expect and what I’m expecting from him. I stayed in the routine of informing my children and over the years came to realize the value of informing them.
Keep them close to me:
In my opinion the biggest secret is to keep my children close to me, on a daily basis and use every possible opportunity to train them to behave well. This way they know exactly what I’m expecting from them in whatever situation, and I know exactly when one of them isn’t having a fun time anymore and starts to look for trouble.
My own rhythm:
Something we sometimes forget to take in account is our personal rhythm and female cycle. As far as possible I try to avoid outings on the second day of my female cycle, in my case the day I’m feeling the worst. And the week before, I have extra grace on myself as well as on my little ones.
We’re in a routine of always praying when we get in the car. We pray for a safe drive, for protection at the different places where we need to go, for well behaved children and provision for what we’re looking for. It isn’t extraordinary to witness the Lord’s hand on our outings
The outing turned out soar:
Then there are days, you did everything right, but the outing just didn’t make it. On these days, I just remember they are still children in training, and training takes time, it’s a process and doesn’t happen overnight. When we get home, I fill their tummies, put exhausted little ones in bed for a nap, and go read a story for an overstimulated toddler. Keeping them close to me, loving them and let them know, all is well, they are safe at home.
With much love