Ask the Moms – Outings with Twins and More

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Categories Activities, Ask the Moms, Preschoolers, Toddlers

A question today from Lyna, which I felt totally compelled to answer (I know, you’re all shocked!):

my twins are 18 mo, and i’m ashamed to admit that i have been relying a lot on my maid in handling them. i even take her along on our outings. yesterday i did something ambitious, i went out with the twins and my elder daughter WITHOUT the maid. it was a stressful experience – i ended up losing my temper on my 4-yo for the littlest reason. i feel so bad and incompetent as a mother.

so how DO you do it? how do you handle outings with 2 toddlers and a rebellious 4-yo without getting all stressed out?

Getting out of the house is more and less challenging at all different ages.  But, more than anything, I think it’s hardest when you simply lack practice.  Don’t beat yourself up, it’s tricky.  Here are some tips:

Choose wisely

When you’re new to solo outings, pick them carefully.  Don’t drag three kids to the grocery store at 5pm.  Pick a time (maybe right after a nap?) when they’re all typically in a good mood.  Pick a destination that isn’t too far away, whether a short walk to the park or a short drive to a friend’s house.  Pick an outing that is manageable and kid-friendly.  If there’s some kind of contained drop-in play space, or a small fenced-in playground (though that can be tricky with the young toddlers), that might be a nice bet. Pick some place that is child-friendly and interesting so that you don’t have to expect them to sit still and be quiet for very long, but also someplace that is small or enclosed enough that you’ll be more able to keep a watchful eye on all of them at once.  Also, consider a class they can all enjoy on their own level, such as a music class (I’ve heard lots of good recommendations for Music Together for multi-aged siblings).  It’s structured, it’s kid-friendly, it’s entertaining, and it’s only an hour.  Make sure you have enough time to get home for the next meal or naptime.

Pack Carefully

Especially at those ages, you don’t need to bring the kitchen sink with you.  But the last thing you want is to be caught without a few diapers and wipes in case of a containment failure.  And snacks.  Don’t ever forget the snacks.  I’m not above using Goldfish crackers as the occasional bribery for good behavior or to avert a meltdown.  Bring snacks and maybe sippy cups with water.  It won’t go bad if you accidentally leave it in the car, but it’s there if you need it.  A hungry child is more likely to be cranky, so make sure everyone’s happy and fed!  Other than that, maybe bring a comfort item if your kids are wary of new situations, but make sure it’s a second-string stuffed animal.  You don’t want to accidentally leave the One True Blanket at the mall.  If you have messy kids, you might leave a change of clothes in the trunk of your car, but no need to drag it all over creation.

Adjust Expectations

Along with choosing your time and location carefully, you need to make adjustments to your own expectations in order to lower your stress level and make you less likely to have a meltdown (and we’ve all done it).  Don’t have a list of things you want to accomplish while you’re out, don’t make your first outings all about errands.  Take it small, and keep it focused on the kids. Make it an outing focused on something fun for them, not to-do list for you.  And then realize that they may not enjoy it as much as you had hoped, and that’s OK.  Realize that sometimes they’re just going to have a bad day and you’ll have to make a quick departure.  And that’s OK.  And, remember, kids are a lot like dogs and horses: they can totally smell fear and tension.  If you’re tense and ready to snap, they’ll pick up on it in a second.  Relax, and put on your “calm and loving mom” face.  You can let out the frustration when you’re home and they’re all down for a nap if you need to.  But as far as they’re concerned, stay cool.

With the older sibling, take a page from LauraC and do some advance preparation.  Talk about what you’ll be doing.  Talk up how much fun music class will be together.  Repeatedly discuss what you’re going to do in detail (“We’ll all get in the car and drive to X.  Then we’ll have music class, and there will be instruments to play and songs to sing, and you can dance if you want to.  When class is over, we’ll come back home and have lunch.”).  Also discuss behavior expectations.  I don’t think there’s a need to focus too much on potential consequences for bad behavior.  Instead, focus on all of the nice things you’re expecting her to do since she’s such a wonderful big girl. Let her know when she’ll have choices (“You don’t have to sing along if you don’t want to.” “You can choose whether we have pretzels or string cheese for snack.”)  And, again, be reasonable.  Don’t expect them to sit quietly somewhere for 45 minutes so you can have a latte and read a magazine.  But do expect the older child to do things like hold hands while walking, use an inside voice, etc.

Practice Makes Perfect

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.  Honestly, this is one of those things that only seems more daunting the longer you wait.  And I know a lot of people who get caught in the (somewhat enviable) trap of almost having too much help.  The down side to having a lot of help is that you do become really reliant on it, and you start to believe that you couldn’t possibly get by without it.  But you can, and lots of people do.  So plan ahead, give yourself a pep-talk if you need to (I think I can, I think I can!), and then just go for it.  Even the most “experienced” among us have days when things seem to crash and burn.  But you learn from the experience (shouldn’t have gone to X when they skipped a nap!), and do it better the next time.  Just keep trying, and soon you’ll be an old pro.

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7 thoughts on “Ask the Moms – Outings with Twins and More”

  1. I will be honest and say that for the first year, I did not take my twins anywhere alone. It was too hard, both logistically and physically. And even now, there are certain places I will not take them alone: the grocery store, errands in the car (where I have to get in and out multiple times), and things like that. I have a nanny who helps me 2 days a week, and I use those days for doing child-unfriendly tasks and also for our My Gym class, which I find much more enjoyable with an extra set of eyes and arms.

    That being said, there are a lot of places I take them alone (they are about to turn two) and it definitely gets easier with practice. We go to Music Together classes once a week (and I second the recommendation), a twins playgroup once a week, and short, stroller-friendly errands (or Target, which has nice two-seater shopping carts they seem to enjoy). I try to limit trips to under an hour round-trip; otherwise, they start to freak out. I have had a couple of fun trips to Starbucks where they actually cooperated and sat in chairs to eat their snacks. It depends on the day, the weather and the mood. And I don’t have an older child to deal with as well — I think that would make it much more difficult, especially when your twins are at an age where they’ve started to resist the stroller.

    I wouldn’t feel guilty about relying on your maid or nanny for help. That’s what you’re paying her for, and in a few years, you’ll be able to do it on your own. Enjoy the help and take advantage of it to do things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to!

  2. Good Advice Goddess!

    I was freaking out about taking my babies to church alone when they were 7 months old until my friend asked, “why would it be any harder than everywhere else you take them alone?” and so I did it. The first week, I packed way too much. I realized they have diapers, wipes, etc… in the nursery, so now I just take two bottles in my purse and a front pack to wear one baby while carrying the other. I’ve taken them seven times by myself and now it’s actually easy! :)

  3. I’m a big fan of practice makes perfect—well, most of the time at least. I’m always experiementing with new things—maybe leave the diaper bag behind, the stroller behind (there was a sad end to a zoo trip around that one—at 20 months, we’re not quite ready yet), getting snacks out or sitting and snacking at Starbucks while Mommy has coffee. We have some hard trips, but some that go great too. And I have to say, their Daddy is great about taking them out alone too. I don’t have an older child, but my friend gets out with her three kids—twins 12 months old and a 2.5 year old. I always think that if she can do it, so can I! Successful trips include any place with a double cart (BJ”s, the grocery store) or with snacks (Starbucks, casual lunch place), music class, library story time, gymnastics at the Little Gym, friends’ houses for playdates (only if childproofed), family’s houses. Unsuccessful trips include any kind of clothing/shoe shopping for me, any sort of store without a stroller and any trip with babies who need to nap.

  4. thanks for all the advice! i guess i have been too comfortable with all the help that i get around me.

    anyway, i found that the most stressful time on our outings were the mealtime. nobody wants to sit still, food got thrown all over the place, etc..etc. so i guess maybe i should avoid going out during mealtimes (at least until i become a pro!).

    and yeah, i should lower down my expectations..

  5. Ooh, Lyna! Yes, avoid mealtimes until you’re more comfortable. Meals out and about with toddlers (and more) are pretty stressful even for the adventuresome among us. Just stick with short, easy outings until you feel like you’ve really gotten the hang of it. Then venture out into lunches. (And I always stick with a place where I pay for the food up front. That way, if I have to make a hasty exit, I don’t have to wait for the bill!)

  6. We just took our first Music Together class and it was perfect for our boys (17 month twins and 2 month old baby). The instructor told us they could roam wherever they wanted and they would learn just by seeing us (the parents) follow instructions; she also said being “quiet” wasn’t a necessity and even the baby would get something out of the class. I didn’t believe it, but the class was great. The big boys didn’t “follow” but they were into it in their own independent ways – and they really liked doing some of the things from class in the following days at home. And the baby was fascinated by all the movement. I would definitely recommend the class for mothers of multiples who may be afraid to take their kids somewhere when they are outnumbered by said children!

  7. Oh, and mealtimes:
    Someone on this blog once mentioned that they called and ordered their food before leaving the house (to minimize wait times). My husband started doing that when he takes the twins out by himself and it makes everything go so much more smoothly. The food is ready and waiting — usually cooled to the right temp. as well. He pays the bill when he arrives so he can dash right out.

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