Seven things (not) to do with 4 kids…the financial and emotional cost calculator.

It’s a struggle to come up with ideas for things to do when you have such a large family to keep everyone entertained and occupied, other than video games, movie rentals and television.  Here’s some examples of things I’ve tried to do and/or done, and found that it’s really not a viable option when you have four kids for both financial and sanity reasons:  

1.  Go grocery shopping ~ This is a nice outing for me.  Even me plus one kid.  But two or more, or, God Forbid, 4?!  No.  Let me count the ways that this does not work.  You will not be able to refer to your grocery list, because every time you take your eyes off the kid in the buggy, he will grab the bread from the back and squeeze it until it pops.  The kid that’s walking beside the buggy will (worst case scenario) disappear into thin air, or (best case scenario) will pick things randomly off the shelf and put them into the buggy.  You will spend an extra $50 on items you didn’t even realize you bought until you get home.  The older kids (whom you would think would be assets in this situation) revert to toddlers and begin whining and arguing with you over your food choices.  One will hit and/or poke the other to get a rise out of him/her, causing you to say obscene things very loudly, and making you the target of stares and judgments cast by onlookers who think (no, KNOW) that they are better parents than you. I actually said to an old woman one day, “You think you can do better than me?!  Take ’em.”  This does not make you appear to be a good parent, I realized.  You cannot win in this situation.  Avoid it at all costs.  If you must go to the store, take only one child, or–better yet–go ALONE.  Here’s another tip:  Do not bring your husband.  He will argue with you about what brand of rice you have bought for the past 5 years, which will make you irritated, walk away from the rice and continue your shopping faster than is prudent to keep ahead of your husband, and thus skip lots of things on your list.

2.  Go out to eat ~ Many people have said, “I think it’s cheaper to eat out than to cook nowadays.”  These people do not have 4 children.  While our grocery bill is pretty steep (just take all your recipes and double them, sometimes triple them, to feed our family for one meal), we have to sell a family heirloom to go to the local buffet.  On these rare occasions, we all order water, and we still spend an average of $65 at “reasonably priced” restaurants.   Taco night at home:  $20.  Plus, at home we have the option of fixing a smaller or larger plate depending on each kid’s appetite that day.  My 4 and 5 year olds will go days eating only bites of food and slices of bread, then on the 3rd day will eat everything in the house.  We can pay for an all-you-can-eat buffet for these children, and they will eat two bites of corn and then whine the rest of the meal.  This makes the tab a little hard to swallow.  So, we opt to plan out our menu and buy what we need for that week.  Of course, this only works because my husband does most of the cooking.  If my kids had to rely on me for a home cooked meal 3 times a day 7 days a week, we’d all be fat McDonald’s frequent flyers.

3.   Go to the movies ~ Even a matinée show will cost us $30 for tickets, and $400 for popcorn and drinks.  If we want to see  a 3D movie, add $80 to the above.  These figures are slightly skewed to inflict the same kind of emotional distress I feel after forking out all this dough in exchange for and hour of prodding my children to sit down, shut up, and watch the dad-blame movie.  Rentals, all the way.  I cannot stress this enough.

4.  Go to a water park / amusement park ~  My very good friend’s mother works at a radio station and scored us free admission tickets to a water park 2 hours away from home.  We spent about 5 hours there.  It was hot and swimming makes you hungry.  We spent $5,000 on drinks and crappy food.  I never left the “kiddy area” because someone had to keep an eye on the little ones.  The big ones stood in lines forever only to chicken out at the last second and walk shamefully down the stairs.  It was a train wreck.  Stick to the local park.  Bring your own drinks and snacks. 

5.  Go to church ~ Wah?!  How could you say that?  Not go to CHURCH with your children?  What is wrong with you.  Oh, no, judge me not.  I take my stupid children to church, because they need divine intervention.  It’s just not fun, is all I’m sayin’.  My 4-year-old spends the service crawling all over me and messing up my hair, and asks me what I’m talking about when it’s time to pray aloud or sing a hymn.  She points at other people and in her loudest attempts at whispering, asks me rude questions about them.  My 5-year-old reacts to being told to sit down and be quiet by throwing himself on the floor at our feet, kicking and whining and then trying to escape by rolling under the pew.  My 15-year-old taps his hand on the seat next to him to the tune that he’s playing in his head to drown out the message and avoid the brainwashing he apparently perceives is being attempted.  By the time church is over, I’m exhausted.  Too exhausted, in fact, to keep up with the little ones as they run away from me screeching as we try to get to the car and return to the safety of our own home.  People in my church know my children well.  The first few months, they let them run by, and chuckled when they saw me running after them.  Now they chase them down for me before they reach the parking lot.  (thanks  🙂  )

6.  Go to Disney World and/or any other vacation ~ We’ve not actually been to Disney World, but I’ve tried to book it.  You’ve seen these advertised specials for families of 4.  Try plugging in a family of 6.  You cannot stay at a value resort, because they will not book it with that many people.  You can only book the deluxe resorts.  The “special” goes from like $899 for the room, tickets and meal plan for 4, to about $4,000 for a family of 6.  I am not exaggerating on this price.  If you don’t believe me, try it yourself.  Keep in mind that we cannot go in the off-season, as all my kids are school aged.  Even a regular vacation seems out of reach for us.  We cannot book a regular hotel room, because we exceed its maximum capacity.  We have to book a suite.  We made the mistake of eating breakfast at our hotel one morning, and our bill was $50.  *Choke*  We went to New Orleans for the weekend, with a free hotel room on a good friend’s reward points, free tickets to the Aquarium from the same friend who gave us the tickets to the water park, and we sprung for tickets to the zoo.  We spent $900 that weekend.  We ate at IHOP, McDonald’s, and at the food market at the zoo.  We did not buy t-shirts. $900.  I’m not exaggerating here, either. 

7.  Go to visit relatives ~ My kids are loud (in case you haven’t already gathered that) and they fight with each other.  When we are home, this really doesn’t phase us.  We are used to it.  When we go to visit people, it is really disturbing to them.  I’m not sure which bothers them more, the ruckus, or our nonchalant attitude towards it.  “Uh, honey, the kids are rolled up in a ball under the table scratching one another!”  “Oh, yeah, they do that all the time…it’s fine.”  We take the “let them figure it out” approach to this problem.  One day maybe they’ll tire of it.  Maybe not. Maybe they will go to college together and roll up in a knot in the commons area and duke it out.  I don’t really care.  Keep in mind that those who love you will judge you the most. Best to keep your kids at home, I think, and let your relatives and/or friends think that you have a normal family.

If you have a large family and have found things that you are able to afford to do to keep everyone entertained (including the MOTHER), please feel free to comment with your suggestions.  If you have a small family, count your blessings  These days, that’s all I can afford to do.  🙂


About zohrbak

Zohrbak is an old email username I had a while's a made-up twist on two characters from Spaceghost. Zorak and Brak. I'm a geek. I am a married, working mother of 4 children, ages 4-15. I also have interests outside of my children, but I can never remember what they are.
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10 Responses to Seven things (not) to do with 4 kids…the financial and emotional cost calculator.

  1. LisaF says:

    Although I’m not a mom with young children, I can relate to a lot of these! We currently have 7 people, 2 dogs and 5 cats living under one roof. That’s my husband and I; one daughter with her husband (recently back from Afghanistan waiting on flight school) and 2 children (23 months and 6 years old); one College Grad who is looking for a job; one Golden Retriever (ours), one mixed breed (Army Wife/Guy’s); two cats who are technically College Grad’s and 3 more that belong to Army Wife/Guy. I feel your $ pain when it comes to eating out/in or any other activity!

    Your posts have made me smile and giggle…especially the “I hate stupid.” Thanks for popping over to my place and leaving a comment. I with you all the best as you navigate the wonder years of parenthood. 🙂

    • zohrbak says:

      Thanks so much Lisa…to be able to entertain such a wonderful writer is a great compliment! Thanks for visiting! Your experience and insight is very helpful to me, as a parent trying to muck through life and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks!

  2. Pat says:

    I love you, every one…

  3. Wendi says:

    One thing you can do is visit friends b/c we don’t care if they curl up under my table, I’ll just threaten them with a big dog and they’ll move.

  4. Aimee says:

    I didn’t even have to READ this one bc I have been in all of those situations. I would have some suggestions but I think my kids are even wilder than yours. Not a single one of mine would dream of chickening out on any attraction. There is no fear in my children…of course, I breed ’em that way.

    You could visit me, and I wouldn’t notice that loud retarded stuff kids do, bc, well, after 4 kids you learn to tune stuff out. Sometimes I tune stuff out that I probably should notice. lol. And if they are too loud, I find that screaming “SHUT UP FOR A SECOND PLEASE” at the top of MY lungs works. Then I add, “Or you can go outside and continue what you were doing”.

    Also, I am VERY good at producing large amounts of food quickly and cheaply. When I came to La to stay with my mother, I said “I’m going to the grocery store to get some food for the week”. As I filled the buggy to the brim she kept saying “Don’t you think thats enough?” I kept saying, “no.” So we get a huge buggy load home, and 5 days later, we are back again for more. Kids are indeed expensive to feed. At fast food places I no longer order value meals. I order 15 to 20 burgers off the dollar menu and they eat until they cannot move. So, that helps.

    We love to travel, and we love amusement parks and such, but they are expensive for a large family. Especially when the kids are too old to lie and say they are 12 and under. The adult tickets and meals are more. However, we do like them. And ALL, yes, ALL 4 of my kids have a cell phone in their pocket and know how to use it. No, my 7 year old doesnt text, and my 9 year old doesn’t either. They have them in situations where separation is a possibility, and in case they disappear, or get separated. Its for my sanity.

    As a family we enjoy national parks and such, they can climb rocks and run free and swim if they have it. Like, Hodges Gardens (not far from Leesville) is a cool place. You pay by the carload to get in. There are gardens and such to look at, trails with cool rocks, a boat ride with a geyser, and now they have a lot of animals to see like white rhinos and stuff. Its an all day affair, and the kids get seriously burnt out and you can pack a lunch in a cooler. PB&J.
    The beach always works out too. Sunscreen and a cooler. Canoe trips. Fun. Going crabbing down south is a FREAKING BLAST, and is free but for a roll of string and turkey necks. Seriously, a blast!!! The kids love the process of holding a string and waiting for the crabs. THEN< you get to boil and eat them. Good times.

    Also, if its really hot, and the older kids wanna stay home but you want to get the little ones out, mine really enjoy those parks (A-Town has one now) where its a slab with little geysers and squirting things and water stuff. They like that as much as going to the water park. Except its free and there are benches where Moms can relax and read a book or whatever. The house stays clean, You relax, and the kids go to bed early.

    I could go on & on…….

    • zohrbak says:

      I have always lived in utter amazement at how you always seem to have it all together, Aimee. When you got up to 3 kids and I still had only 2, I told you that we could no longer be friends because that was entirely too many kids collectively! Now look at us, we are still friends and have 8 kids collectively. However, it should be noted that we had to put like 4 states between us! Thanks for all the tips…you are a supermom.

  5. Kelly says:

    Hey, do you want some tickets to the Zoo, Aquarium, or Blue Bayou? Oh, wait…

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