Wow, it’s only been since April this year that I first took the petrifying steps of taking my 3 toddlers out alone. Such a lot has changed in only 6 months. I have built my confidence so much in managing all 3 kids alone, that I have made several quite risky ventures with them in the past couple of weeks.
Prior to April, and even a month or two ago, I suffered with anxiety and depression that our lives would never compare to a household with one or two young children. It also made me worry about the range of activities and social interactions my children were getting, in light of my decision to unschool them. So, here we are, in a positive place in life. I wanted to share the news to anyone wanting to know how quickly it can take for life to change from the isolating and restrictive homelife with 3 young babies.
How Are We Able To Get Out Alone?
My oldest daughter is now 4 years 9 months, and my youngest two (the twins) have just turned 3. That gives them a whopping combined age of 10 years. Double figures! It has made a huge difference in terms of taking them out alone. Why?
Firstly, the backbone of gentle parenting throughout our family life has made our relationships strong enough to follow through with boundaries outdoors. We also have not had to resort to bribery or shaming my children to get them to do what we need. It also has helped me learn to breathe and know that my children are learning from every interaction, which means I try not to rush them along wherever possible.
Secondly, my older daughter is now nearly 5. She is hugely different to the nearly 4 year old she was last year. And also far more sensible than just a few months ago. She helps hold one of the twins’ hands if I ask, which means I can hold the two youngest hands, and she feels she has a responsibility to help. Indirectly, this willingness to help Mummy has helped keep her out of harm’s way too.
Thirdly, doing the relativly safe and small animal park multiple times together, helped me learn when things can go wrong. For example, I learnt quickly that my younger two are shy due to their limited socialisation so far. In order to get all 3 to come with me, I need to follow through with my parenting of my older daughter. I ask her to leave with us and if she refuses I repeat that we have to go. I then ask “do you want to walk, or do you want me to carry you?”. If she still refuses to leave, I say “if you’re not walking in 5 seconds I’m going to have to carry you”. This gives her warning that I’m about to invade her personal space, and after following through on that once or twice she pretty much always walks voluntarily now. The other two tend to follow as long as Mummy and older sister are going, so that’s pretty easy.
Do I Use Any Tricks or Tools?
When I first started taking the kids out alone, I feared a disaster happening so wanted to take toddler reigns and optional favourite snacks (yes, I considered resorting to bribery if it prevented a serious incident!). Fortunately, after building my confidence and applying the above principles well rehearsed in our home environment, I didn’t need to use any of these after a few trips out. Only a few months on and I don’t take any backups like that anymore.
What Sorts of Places Have Been Best For Making Friendships?
When you start venturing out after having 3 babies close in age, or multiples, you can feel a strong desire to find friendships. To be honest, now I’m so shattered from going out to all these places, and maybe slightly drained of interacting with so many new faces, that I’m not bothered about my own friendship base anymore. If it happens, great, but if not, the priority right now is my children. I just look forward to seeing my children interacting with a wider range of people.
Since we are homeschooling, one of the first settings I tried to make friendships for the kids was through online Facebook home education groups. Honestly? I have found it quite hard interacting with people through Facebook. It’s a bit like blind dating through an online dating website. You just can’t tell what the other person is thinking / why they’re not messaging / if they’re someone you’d get on with in person / and many more stressors. I have relatively given up on this environment. Except for following Stark Raving Dad for unschooling tips and support through his new podcast. I bought all of his homeschool guides, just because I liked the vibe this fellow home educating father offers. Plus he is a phenomenal writer. I’d recommend you follow him if you’re considering homeschooling, or even if you’re not as he may well change your current viewpoint anyway!
One of the best places so far for welcoming and friendly faces has been our local church. I haven’t been to church in about 10 years. I am so glad that I took our kids to the local messy church the other week. Since then we’ve been to Sunday church as well as a community lunch, through the church interactions. I am not a Christian, though have sat on the fence many times in my life. I guess, whether I am a firm believer or not, the church seem happy to welcome me and my family with open arms.
Another brilliant place for friendships was our local independent school. ‘School!?!’ you may ask. Yes, bricks and mortar school. They offer group swimming lessons, forest school, and other family activities. It actually works out cheaper than any other equivalent places and I get to stay with my children. I don’t know if it’s the same with all independent schools, but this one, in only a few weeks, has become a sort of family to us. My husband has been working so many hours that he wasn’t able to join the swimming classes, where they require both of us to be there. After cancelling a couple of times, I explained he can’t get the staffing, and they said I could bring all 3 children alone with armbands and the help of the teacher. I feel so grateful to have met this network of teachers to help my children learn a potentially life saving skill.
Feeling Like a Normal Family
All of the above has helped me to start venturing to even more adventurous places. This week, I took all 3 kids to a home education day at the zoo, and today I went to a homeschool gathering at the science museum. The photo above is of my 3 kids after the science museum. As you can see, even with the gentle parenting techniques helping me manage alone with the 3 kids relatively easily… they are still only 3 and 4 years’ old… which means they do occasionally do funny little ‘you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man’ scenarios with me chasing behind. Is that was other families are doing with their one child? No, because catching one child is easy. But what’s normal anyway! My family are pretty phenomenal.