Children are some of life’s greatest blessings. They fill our hearts and homes with giggles, hugs, and love. They can also add stress and anxiety to our lives.
I’m a confident Mom when we’re at home. I cut up the strawberries, help with the alphabet puzzles, and treat every day like a musical in which my daughter and I are the stars.
Outside our home (or castle if we’re playing make-believe), my confidence was replaced with anxiety.
These situations were normal:
- Running all over the place and not listening
- Disrupting other restaurant, store, or park guests
- Quiet desperate pleas for obedience, followed by losing my cool
- Embarrassment and fear of judgement
- Crying on the floor of the bathroom (this could be either me or my daughter)
We were once at a point where I would send my husband on every errand and only go out with our little girl if he was with me.
The trigger for change was when we had house guests stay for my daughter’s 2nd Birthday week. (We live 12 hours away from family, so cycling guests through our home really is a Birthday Week!)
I lost my cool in front of my best friend. Honestly, if I was going to lose my cool in front of anyone, I’m so glad it was her.
We had gone to the children’s museum and had a blast, but the wheels fell off when we went to a very crowded restaurant for lunch. The situation became so stressful! I could list a hundred things that didn’t go well but because you’re reading this, I know you understand.
My daughter is a great kid. Why were public outings such a challenge? After some deep thought, I realized I needed to take control of the situation. I also found that there were simple things I could do, to improve the success of any outing.
Here are the 5 steps I took to improve outings with my daughter:
- Diaper Bag Essentials
I started by mentally reviewing past outings and what triggered our negative emotions.
I’ll use the restaurant meltdown as an example:
- She didn’t want to go in the restaurant
- She wouldn’t sit in her seat
- She refused to eat what we ordered
- I felt like “that parent” with the disruptive child
- She wouldn’t listen to my pleas to be quieter or to sit and eat
If I’m being honest, I knew this was a big contributor to the problem.
My Daughter takes a nap from 12-2pm every day. When we went to the Museum, we had a wonderful time and ended up leaving around 11:30am. Someone in our party requested we have lunch and sit inside the restaurant. My super-mom senses were already tingling that danger was coming.
I did not personally want to sit down for lunch either. I should have put my Mama Bear pants on and headed for home for a quiet lunch and nap.
If going inside for lunch was what I really wanted us to do, there were still things I could have done to help control the situation.
I didn’t have a great attitude when we entered the restaurant. I knew this would be awful, and I didn’t make any attempts to shield others from the tantrum blast until it was too late. It actually crossed my mind that it serves our party right for insisting we sit down at a restaurant so close to naptime after a stimulating morning.
What a horrible attitude!
If I made the commitment to lunch inside the restaurant, I needed to start by controlling my attitude. It was wonderful that friends had traveled so far to visit us. The memories made at the Children’s museum were irreplaceable. My daughter was probably going to sleep great that day/night.
As a parent, I need to keep an eye on my daughter’s emotions and do my best to intercept negative feelings and redirect them.
4. Diaper Bag Essentials
Now that I’ve owned the decision to eat inside and put myself in the right mental space, I need to make sure I have the necessary physical tools.
My diaper bag was already stocked with the typical items:
- Extra outfit, sweater
- Diapers and wipes
- Changing pad
- Small snack
I’ve expanded the list to also include:
- Essentially a toddler meal or two worth of snacks
- Snacks may keep my daughter busy and full in the event we attend a restaurant that isn’t as kid-friendly or if the wait is long and she is hungry
- Snacks may also help if we are with other children. I felt a responsibility to share my daughter’s snacks because other kids in our party wanted some.
- Quiet toys
- I’ve always thought our activities were so exciting, toys weren’t necessary. However, this was poor planning. There are so many unknowns, that a few options for distraction are a must.
- A second outfit
- At the museum my daughter walked too close to a water table and got splashed. We changed her outfit and were ready to keep playing. Within 5 minutes she crawled through a toy fallen log in the play area and was covered in dirt. Kids will totally be kids! However, a clean and comfortable outfit may have made her less irritable and helped me with my guilt that my child was not only loud but also messy.
Have you seen those “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” signs that sometimes appear on fire extinguishers?
Well, I should have realized we were facing a 5-alarm meltdown when by 1pm when we were just getting our food. Had I pulled out my phone or my daughter’s tablet, I might have been able to diffuse the situation with a silly video.
Unfortunately, other people are going to judge your decisions no matter what. I’d rather be the parent with technology as a distraction while eating, than the parent who raises her voice at her children in public. To each their own Mama, you may feel the exact opposite.
I’m adding tablet and charger to the list of diaper bag essentials. Technology is a tool and I will leverage it when needed.
We’ve arrived back at the first step.
Improving the success of our outings will be an on-going journey. It will change with age, location, and especially when her little brother arrives in a few months.
Each time my daughter has a meltdown in public or I feel anxiety, there will be something to learn from it. We’ll continue to grow together in making the experiences as positive as possible.
What do you do to ensure the best outings with your kiddos? Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to update the article with anything that improves outings with my daughter so other readers can benefit.