Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Packing lite

I'm pretty sure that coordinating extracurricular activities and
calendars with young children in tow is similar to running a small
business. 1st you have to do an analysis of cost. Will the cost of
the gas and screaming baby to come back home justify the sanity saving
it will provide.  Depending on the mood of the children you will still have
with you, fighting (and I'm not the type that uses fighting to generically mean
arguing or fighting, they are 2 very different things) along your route may
also have to be accounted for since that lowers the volume of sanity you
get to keep. Sometimes this cost analysis is not needed because the time
it would take you to go home would require you to just turn around and
go back.

So in the event that you have to sit at the soccer field for an hour,
you do have some options. At least a soccer field is big, outside and
open. If your lucky you'll even land at one with a playground. So
the packing list for that isn't too bad. Coats, shoes, extra balls
(or they'll be running onto any field to help themselves) is minimum
enough for you to survive. Of course a chair or blanket, sling and water
bottles will buy you even less whining.  It's kind of like a secret mission
though, to load the van without anyone seeing. If you give a kid a ball
another will want one too. If you give three a ball a fourth will certainly
want a scooter. If you give a fourth a ball you'll have to start over. A ball
for this one, a push toy for that one, a scooter for this one, a bike for
that one (and they'll still change their mind once your actually there). If you
plan accordingly and cut them off at just the right time (when the trunk
will barely close is a good time) to minimize arguing but still leave
at a decent time, you may only be 5 minutes late.

Now if you're going somewhere with a lobby instead of outside you have
another executive decision to make. If you take the children into the
lobby to wait you have to provide just the right toys. You see if you
don't provide toys with plenty of imaginative potential they're done
in under 5 minutes. Of course the items in questions must not make
loud imaginative noises. Vehicles rev, honk, and chug way too loudly,
any animal is sure to be loud, this of course eliminates half my
children's toys. 95% of the toys that are left too closely resemble a
ball or make noises on their own. That leaves you with a couple magna
doodles and some dollhouse dolls (with no pets or anything to drive as
stated above) but just to be sure I'd leave the baby of the doll family at
home too. Or you could pack lite by giving up all your principals and just buy them
a gameboy.

Oh, but wait, there's an alternative to the lobby. You could just
wait in the car. This does keep them contained and keeps them from
torturing the people trying to work at said place. But preparing for
an hour in the car is much like preparing for an 8 hour road trip.
Though they don't need to stay buckled and it won't be 8 hours, just
knowing they can unbuckle creates a whole new world of challenges.
Children who will beg unrelentingly for television at home will have
no desire to watch television in the car. This phenomenon is caused
by choices. When faced with the choice of watching television or
wearing out the motor for your car window it's a no brainer. You can
always banish them to the rear. Back there they are faced with the
choice of watching television or doing flips off the seat into your
cargo space (which will certainly end in fights or injury). In the end,
just like any road trip, your best defense is a large arsenal of digestible
bribery. That is, if you don't mind food fights and irretrievable crumbs
in every crevice. Not to mention the baby who isn't old enough to eat the
snacks. The baby that will nurse hourly at home, if given the chance, won't
nurse at all in a car full of kids. You say she's too young for snacks, she
on the other hand thinks she's plenty old enough to ingest the turn signal. I
wonder if the person on the other side of the window the baby keeps
flashing the lights through, has kids.  This is the route we opted for last night
since 2 kids forgot shoes and 1 a coat.  I am pretty sure at some point we
scared away the man in the SUV next to us.  The team on the field in front of
us may have thought we were using Morris Code to call for help.  And one
of my van doors was barricaded this morning.

You could just banish extracurricular activities. If you don't tell
them they exist I won't. This approach works well until they start meeting
other kids old enough to hold a conversation. You play baseball? On
a team with kids that aren't your siblings? You even play games
against other teams? MOOoooOOoOM! If you somehow get past the lower
years activities free your kids will eventually enter the pre college
years. Then they start reading up on getting into colleges. And
there it is in black and white, the need for extracurricular
activities if you want to get into that college 9 hrs away that will
cost your parents $20k a year (oh sorry, that is all probably another
post in itself). By then your kid is probably even smart enough to
argue that babysitting siblings is not an extracurricular activity.
Though you may have made it to the age that you could just hand them
your keys. But that too is a topic for a whole other post that I'm
not quite ready for.

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