Outings with Kids

I must admit, parenting is a challenge. It’s a challenge to drive a long distance. It’s a challenge to go shopping. It’s a challenge to go out to eat anywhere aside from McDonalds or Burger King. I can complain all I want, but the truth is taking my child out is far easier for me than it was for my mother and generations prior. When I really think about it, I have no idea how these mommies did it. They must have had mountains of patience, magic tricks up their sleeves and maybe even some fairy dust. Because once a child becomes bored or decides they want to go home, it’s more than difficult to find a graceful way of prolonging the experience without the help of current inventions. There are a few things I’ve found to be the saving graces of various outings that otherwise may have quickly gone awry.

Supermarket Hand Scanners

I know not all grocery stores use these yet, but the one I frequent has them, and they are nothing short of amazing for shopping with a toddler. These wonderful little hand scanners allow me to scan each item and place it into the bags I’ve already prepared in my cart so that I’m not standing in the longest line ever waiting for the cashier to scan every single item, and then waiting even longer for them to be bagged. When I first had my daughter, I didn’t know these little scanners existed. I’d wait in line, praying my baby didn’t start screaming before our turn finally came. Now I just go to a quick scan kiosk and scan one barcode, which is generated by my nifty little hand scanner, pay and the outing is over. Not only does this make checkout simple, but my daughter LOVES the scanner. She happily sits in the cart scanning every barcode for me as we plow through the store. It’s a game to her, and that’s fine by me. She even starts to take more notice of the things we are buying and lets me know what she’d like added to our trip. I had my doubts about grocery shopping because I know the grocery store is not the most exciting place for children, but this scanner has changed the entire experience to something positive. When I tell my daughter we are going to Stop & Shop, she cheers, which is something I can’t ever recall doing as a child.

Family Restrooms

I cannot remember ever seeing a family restroom as a child, teenager or even as a young adult. A unisex bathroom was something I’d only seen in a unique dance club in the city. I don’t know what prevented these wonderful creations from happening sooner, but the family bathrooms are a fantastic invention. No longer do moms need to wait to use the single, little changing table in the back of the bathroom. Now there are several padded, counter mounted change stations to comfortably change a baby. There are even little trash bins right next to them for quick disposal of diapers and wipes. There are also private nursing rooms for moms who wish to breastfeed in private. I actually used one of these, and it really was a wonderful thing. A nice quiet little room away from prying eyes where I could sit comfortably, and my baby could fill up on milk in a relaxed environment before continuing our shopping excursion.

The bathroom stalls are also family friendly because they are large enough to fit a stroller inside. Gone are the moments when I had to leave the stroller by the sinks and use the bathroom with my child crammed in front of me. No longer need I sit in fear of the moment she touches sanitary napkin receptacle or the front of the toilet bowl. These new restrooms are roomy enough to fit the stroller and child. Some even have a tiny toilet for children who are already potty trained. My husband is especially thankful for all places with family bathrooms because having a daughter makes the situation rather awkward. He hates the idea of bringing our daughter into the Men’s Room so he can use the bathroom, and there is no way he can leave her unchaperoned outside. The family bathroom makes it possible for him to change my daughter, or use the restroom himself, sans awkwardness. I honestly hope more of these pop up because they truly make life for parents far simpler.

Tablets (of course)

As much as I hate to resort to my child staring into a computer screen, tablets really are a fabulous invention, especially for children who are still too young to read. Whether it’s the iPad or similar device, these inventions have made parenting so much easier. When we are in a restaurant and our child does not feel like eating, or sitting quietly, having a tablet handy is a wonderful thing. She can watch musical programs, movies, play with her previously downloaded teaching apps, and even draw/paint pictures with her fingers. When we took an almost four-hour trip to Atlantic City, and our daughter didn’t feel like napping, the biggest help in keeping her subdued for the ride was use of her tablet.

I don’t like to often hand her a device to occupy her mind, but in certain situations it really is a Godsend. There is nothing worse than driving over a bridge with a child screaming over and over that she wants out of her car seat, or needing to leave a restaurant after only just receiving the entrée because someone decided it was time to be a big, fat cranky pants.

While I recall spending many family trips reading during the long car rides, I can’t recall my parents taking me on a trip prior to being able to read. Perhaps this is why. The ability to have various forms of entertainment at one’s fingertips definitely makes outings and possible travel disasters a far less painful experience.

While going out with little ones isn’t necessarily a walk in the park, thankfully there are many devices at our disposal to make these trips happy ones. When thinking about it, my mother must find my complaints pretty darn lame. She’s probably thinking, “Yeah, try taking a car trip with two fussy children, and no DVD, tablet, or handheld video game, and then you can talk to me about difficult”. It’s true. This doesn’t mean taking the kids out isn’t a big pain in the buns, but it could always be worse.

Photo courtesy of Marisa Svalstedt.

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Marisa Svalstedt

Marisa Svalstedt is a stay-at-home mom living in her hometown of Bethel, CT, with her husband, and their daughter. She received her MA from Western Connecticut State University where she taught as an adjunct professor. She's recently been featured on The Mighty and Babble.com. In addition to writing, she enjoys crochet and photography.

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