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. 🙂