A long time ago I did seven takes to traveling with children–how to get from New York to Texas in a few minivan with six children and not lose your mind. You can google it because it was fantastic and was full of useful information about the shoe bag and how not to lose your mind–no wait, I already said that. So, now I’ve gone into NYC with children and one time was more than enough for me to provide a similar slate of scintillating advice.
Go when your children are old enough to walk. There’s no reason to have any kind of an outing with any child under seven years of age. All those people who suggest you should get out of the house with your toddler are lying to you. No toddler needs to go to the library or the museum, unless you are potty training and you want to give the little precious somewhere new to have an accident. No, when the children are little, stay home and enjoy yourself. Eat left over bowls of macaroni and cheese, Cheerios off the floor, and the end of a gross cheese stick recovered from someone’s pocket. Only when the child is long legged and buzzing with so much energy you feel like you’re going to lose your mind is it the proper time to go on an outing.
Finally start telling your children what is going to happen next. If you’ve read me for any number of years you’ll know that I strongly advise against letting young children know what is going to happen next. Think of every day as Sunday, or Friday, or whatever. Every moment is a surprise. Avoid all, ‘tomorrow we’ll see aunt Sally and have ice cream and the day after that you’ll get a shot and then on the weekend we will go to the zoo.” Folly lies that way, and so much crying. No, when a child is very young you let him sit on the floor ripping up paper into ever increasing tiny bits of sadness and say things like, ‘That’s very nice, Johnny. When you’re done with that last square we will put on your coat and go out. No, don’t ask where, it doesn’t matter. There you go, now let’s put on your shoes and get in the car.” Children have no reasonable concept of time anyway. They only need to know what is happening to them as it is happening.
When the child gets to be seven, then you can give more information.Three
Like, “Yes We Will Eat Food we just don’t know where we’re going to eat it and what its going to be, do you have anything you’d particularly like to eat?” You can chat with all your children and negotiate together about what would be best. When fights break out you can revert back to your previous manner of being. “Be quiet,” you can say, “we’re eating pizza in fifteen minutes.”
Continue with your new habit of telling your children the things that are hurting you whenever they tell you the things that are hurting them. “Oh, your feet are sore?” You can say, “So too with mine! In fact, wait, come back here. Look! The ball of my foot, right here, no look, is on fire.” The child will back away from you in horror and remember that he doesn’t need to tell you how he feels every second of the benighted day.
Revel in the delight that by teaching your children about Jesus and the Bible you are actually giving them the gift of being able to enjoy great art. Stand back as they go delightedly from picture to picture recognizing the slaughter of the innocents, Hagar raising her arms in despair to God, Salome waiting with her platter and her toes curled under, her amused and expectant expression defying you to look away. Gaze on as Other People ask each other what the pictures are of and what they mean. Feel like you did something right, even if it was only that one thing.
Make the children carry their own jackets and sweaters. Never ever give in and carry them yourself because if you do, when you try to give them back everyone will be angry with you. Don’t admit for a minute that it was a bad idea to bring sweaters. Look, it’s February. That is technically winter. It’s not your fault if it turns out to be 80 degrees. That never happens. Explain however many times it takes that it is never ever ever a bad idea to bring a sweater. Rejoice late at night when everyone puts on their sweater for ten minutes while waiting for a shuttle. You won. They did need the sweater. Look who is complaining now! No one, that’s who.
Admonish your children to go check out more takes. Just kidding, they don’t need to be on the internet. That’s you, you go check out more and better takes!