I remember those early days of motherhood when taking my newborn daughter on outings seemed nearly impossible. All the stuff I had to schlep around in order to go anywhere and all the preparation it required, compiled with the fact that newborns are notorious for throwing last-minute wrenches into any type of plan, was enough to just make me stay home on more occasions than not. I remember thinking how much easier life would be when I had a toddler to take on outings and they could walk and talk, and all I would need to bring was an extra diaper, some wipes, and a handful of crackers.
Well, now I have a toddler — and can I just say that aside from being able to pack less stuff, everything else about taking a toddler out in public is infinitely more challenging than it was to take a newborn places? Taking a newborn out in public may require some extra prep, but once you get there they pretty much just sleep and eat and let you carry on a conversation. Babies are fairly straightforward like that. Taking a toddler in public? Well, that’s a different story.
Lately I’ve found myself asking, on more than one occasion during outings with my toddler, “Why do I even bother leaving the house? This is way more work than it’s worth.” I love my toddler, but man … toddlers are exhausting! And through such thoughts these 17 stages of taking a toddler out in public were born. I’m pretty sure this curriculum will be adopted by university child development programs pretty soon. I know it definitely would’ve been useful information to me when I was getting my degree in it!
The 17 Stages of Taking a Toddler Out in Public
Stage 1: Deciding
We haven’t left the house all week and I think we’re all feeling ready to get out. Let’s go to the zoo/the park/swimming/ballet class/insert toddler friendly activity here.
Stage 2: Excitement
This is going to be a fun adventure! I can’t wait to get out and do something fun together. These are the moments that childhood magic is made of. Maybe we can try X,Y, or Z idea that I saw on Pinterest while we’re out … that looked really fun!
Stage 3: Supply Preparation
You painstakingly prepare a meal/snacks/distractions to take along on your excursion. Even if you’re only going to Target, you know how important it is to come prepared. You cut all of the food into bite-sized pieces and try to find a balance of foods that are semi-nutritious and that your toddler just might actually be willing to eat. You completely neglect to make anything for yourself.
Stage 4: Personal Preparation
Now you get your child dressed for said activity. If your toddler is learning how to put on their own clothes… then 20 minutes later you’re still sitting there as he or she is completely distraught over the fact that those pants won’t go on. You offer your help and it is denied with wailing and gnashing of teeth. You realize you won’t have time to leave the house today if you don’t speed things along, so in the end you put the pants on your screaming toddler yourself. After you finally calm them down, you use the approximately 30 seconds you still have to throw on something semi-clean and throw your hair in a bun or under a hat. Makeup probably isn’t happening.
Stage 5: Convincing
Apparently your toddler doesn’t want to go to the zoo/the park/swimming/ballet class/etc. simply because they are a toddler learning to exercise their freedom and choice. You spend a good five minutes convincing them that this will be “so much fun!”
Stage 6: Hunting and Gathering
Now it’s time to to track down all the items you need to bring along and those snacks you meticulously planned out.
Stage 7: Exhaustion
Wow. Just getting ready is exhausting. You sit down for a few minutes to recharge and refocus … and maybe consider some of your life’s choices while you’re at it.
Stage 8: Forgetting
Now you’re off! Your child is safely buckled in and you’re on your way! You get a few minutes from home only to remember that you forgot something essential to your outing and thus must go back home. You possibly mutter a few curse words under your breath. Your toddler’s super sonic hearing picks up one of these and immediately starts repeating it from the backseat.
Stage 9: Reconsidering
As you drive back toward your house you start to reconsider this outing. Maybe we should just stay home today? There was that new episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that we could watch…
Stage 10: Resolution
“No. We’re totally doing this. I already packed my supplies! I’ve got this.”
Stage 11: The Journey
Now you’re headed to your destination … for real this time. Your toddler is in the backseat demanding that you “play the Frozen song! Just one more time mama!” over and over and over … He or she is also making demands for a snack, because it took so long to actually get going and now they’re hungry again.
Stage 12: The Headache
Your head is pounding from the force of hearing the grating sound of your toddler coupled with Idina Menzel approximately 85 times. You pull up to your destination and pop a couple of aspirin. This is totally going to be fun … right?
Stage 13: The Event
You embark on your outing (you gave up on adding in those clever Pinterest ideas a good hour ago). Your toddler runs away from you at least 28 times and refuses to walk any further on at least 12 occasions. There are 16 discussions about “being safe with our bodies” and “listening to Mama’s words.” And when it’s time to stop for lunch, an adamant refusal and disdain for every food item you packed is clearly expressed.
Stage 14: Recollection
Oh yeah. I remember now how much this sucked last time. Why do I always forget?
Stage 15: The Meltdown
It’s time to leave and your toddler has a meltdown of epic proportions. You are embarrassed, but you try to stand firm and be consistent. In the event that your toddler has simply become exhausted and cannot be reasoned with, you may or may not resort to your carefully packed distractions.
Stage 16: The Declaration
“I’m never leaving the house again. Watching 18 consecutive episodes of Caillou from the comfort of our own living room would be way more pleasant than this and I can’t stand that bald, little twerp!”
Stage 17: Acceptance
This is my life. In like 10 more years I’ll totally be able to leave the house again … right?
Lauren Hartmann is the founder of The Little Things We Do, a blog about life and adventures in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram or catch up on all of her posts here on Babble.