We finally did it! I managed to safely take our 4 year 3 month old, and 2 year 7 month old twins out alone. Why? How? What would I do differently? Most importantly, would I do it again? This blog post answers these questions.
What Stopped Me Going Out
When the twins were newborn and my eldest was 20 months old, I was comfortably able to take them all out without a support network. What real harm can happen when 2 of the babies are in a pram and the third wants to be held or ride the pram too?! Fast forward to when the twins were 1 year old and insisting on climbing out of the pram rather than stay in it, and I felt unable to get out at all. I felt so much guilt for not being able to take them places to interact with other people or go to exciting places unless my husband was there. For context, he was only there one day a week due to work, and oftentimes on that day would be too tired to get up to make a full day of it.
Ultimately I feared if one of them hurt themselves, or ran away, or if all 3 wanted to be carried… to name a few. The fear of me not being able to physically keep them safe was enough to make us homebound for around 2 years.
How Did I Reslise This Needed Change
The World was hit by the COVID-19 virus. Thousands of people complained about what a terrible year it was due the lockdown. Lockdown for most, compared to my lonely life with 3 babies, sounded like a pleasure. Whilst I was homebound I also had to work from home, and as mentioned above was unable to physically get out anywhere with the 3 children. Not even for a daily walk to the park which people have been allowed to do in lockdowns.
I realised that the stress, loneliness, anxiety, depression and, even in some cases attempted suicides (or successful too), felt by the world due to the COVID situation was comparable to the lives we had been leading. I realised that living this way was no longer an option for my kids. Afterall, I want them to be happy now as well as grow to be happy adults. If adults can’t even cope with that level of isolation, then why should my children. It’s not their fault they were all born so close together and they had every right to as normal a life as possible. You may be interested in reading my blog post about isolation and postnatal depression here.
What Options Did I Consider
Just before lockdown ended, and my husband was still working fewer hours due to only being available for click and collects and online orders, I booked us into a forest school and a homeschool meetup. I imagined I’d be able to pursue these alone going forward, perhaps with the support of some members of the groups etc. However, as it turns out, those groups were too physical and potentially hazardous. For example they had steep walks, or riversides, and were aiming to walk a good 2 hours. Given than the twins have barely been exposed to other people, they wanted to be carried most of the way for security. I would definitely not be able to do this again alone, much as I would have wanted to!
Then I remembered a little farm setup that I’d been to when the twins were only babies and my eldest was just over 2 years. It had a very quiet car park, leading straight into the animal park. Within the setting was a small playground, a shop for food and drinks, and then a few farm animals such as goats and donkeys. My mind still worried about the risks of taking two 2 year olds and a runaway 4 year old alone, but the realisation of the stress they could potentially be under in this socially restricted world they’ve lived – I went for it!
The Leadup to Going Out Alone
I realised that I had to have a serious conversation with my eldest daughter. Her brother and sister tended to follow their big sister anyway, so if I could get my oldest on side then that increased the chance of success. The conversations involved me explaining that it is very difficult for Mummy to take them out alone as I have to ensure they’re safe. That means no running away, and if I say stop that they stop. She agreed that she would. I was also fully aware that as yet her brain has not developed the ability to control impulses, so I also prepared myself the best I could, as follows:
- I took 3 toddlers reigns with me in the bag, which I would have used in an emergency.
- I took their favourite food and surprise new fruit drinks in my bag, again for a “Oh I forgot I have these if you want” knowing that would stop them in their tracks if needed.
- I took my mobile phone (which I rarely ever use in a house with 3 cheeky monkeys) and made sure it was charged.
- I knew 100% what was there and planned to offer even more exciting things to move on to as the day progressed.
What Went Well
The above planning definitely helped it be a success. The location was safe and small enough that I could see all 3 even if they separated at parts. It was a hands on place with lots of animals they could stroke and feed, which meant they were stopping a lot. This also meant that they didn’t ask to be carried (until exhaustion at the end), as they were excited to move onto the next animals or activities.
What Did I Learn to do Differently Next Time
In the morning I packed their favourite foods and unfortunately one of them spotted them. I ended up saying “yes, this is for when we’re at the animal park…”, but they interpreted that to mean when we arrived. Oh dear. That meant my food offers were gone immediately!! Lesson learnt: hide all enticing foods and ensure none of the kids see them til safely in the car at the end!
When we went into the park, there was a fridge with their favourite juices in. They asked for one and I automatically said yes. Next time, I will definitely be buying them but only at the end as that will make my life easier to say “let’s get to the shop before it shuts if you want one of those drinks…”. Especially when we’re all exhausted and they just don’t want to leave (like happened this time!).
By the time I’d got to the car park, after over an hour of trying to get them there… I ended up forgetting all my gentle parenting skills and for some insane reason I said “so make sure you don’t run as we’re in a car park…”. Don’t run. Child shortens to ‘run’. My youngest daughter ran! Fortunately there were no cars and all was ok, but my stress levels were heightened and when my eldest asked to go in the boot instead of her car seat I wasn’t very considerate in my response to that either. Next time, I’m sure I’ll remember to state “stand here” as I act as a block for the 2 remaining children whilst getting the first in… In brief, it is easier for a small child to understand the command ‘what to do’ rather than ‘what not to do’.
For quick help on how to be gentle with your words so your child understands what you are asking. You should avoiding starting sentences with ‘don’t…’ or ‘…not xyz…’ and instead starting with ‘can you…’ (without any ‘not’ creeping in either!). For example ‘can you walk slowly’ instead of ‘don’t run’, or avoiding ‘can you not… jump on me’ to ‘can you jump on the floor…’.
Would I Do It Again?
Most definitely, yes. I signed up that day to the annual pass and we are planning to go again tomorrow. I am now trying to scour the whole of our local area to find other places which would be equally safe and interesting for the kids and me. Another local forest school says they have their small and relatively private car park directly onto the forest area that the tots can play in – so fingers crossed the world for my little ones is opening up like blooming flowers in these spring days 🙂