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Taking children on an outing? Lower expectations of how it will go

By Michelle Marshall

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Aug. 22 2011 11:15 a.m. MDT

Disney on Ice in 2008 in Salt Lake City.

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Have you ever tried to take your kids anywhere fun? Some of you, like me, just froze except for that little twitch in your left eyelid. I almost break out in a sweat at the thought. And I’m not talking about major trips. I’m talking about places like the zoo, or a movie or a show.

Let me tell you about the last time we took our kids to a show. I’ll just preface it by saying it happened about four years ago — that’s how bad it went. We went to Disney on Ice. I would like to insert my disclaimer right now and say that this show was awesome. It had everything you would ever want to see on ice — princesses, witches, more princesses, fish, more princesses. This is in no way, shape or form against on Disney on Ice. It might be a teeny slam on my children.

At one point during the show, my oldest daughter sat with her coat on backwards so the hood covered her face. This apparently was her protest over our refusal to buy her the $20 twirly glow stick that the man kept walking up and down the stairs trying to sell. Another daughter cried and turned her back to the show because she couldn’t have her own cotton candy. Or popcorn. The baby didn’t seem to care about anything.

I had naively pictured my girls thanking us. And hugging us. And skipping. Mostly they pouted and whined.

When I got a coupon in the mail for the upcoming Disney on Ice and I left it out on the counter. I really wanted to go again. My husband walked in, looked at it like it was poison and said, “You aren’t thinking about this, are you?” I tried to explain that the younger kids can’t have their chance ruined because the older ones were brats that day, but once I saw the twitch in his eyelid, I knew I’d better stop.

The zoo is another great idea until you get there. By the time I pack all the strollers, bags, snacks, water, special toys, cameras, hats (you get the picture), I wonder if I can convince the kids to just watch Barney Zoo instead of actually going. We walk in the front entrance and someone immediately has to go to the bathroom. And when she comes out, it triggers another child’s bladder and so forth.

Twenty minutes later we start walking, but I have forgotten to sunscreen them. So 20 minutes after that we start walking (again) and someone is hungry. I can still see the car in the parking lot and we are already busting out my mid-day snacks. By the time we’ve seen four animals I’ve broken up three fights, changed two diapers and am now looking wistfully at the trail of Goldfish we’ve left behind, leading us back to the entrance.

I can honestly say that the only difference between taking our kids places now compared to when we were (more) stupid parents is that we have drastically lowered our expectations. I never leave home without a stash of suckers, Smarties, or gum. I fully expect at least three out of five children to cry on any given outing. If I get to see half of a movie without potty breaks or crying babies, it was worth the ticket price.

So, call me crazy, but I think I might fish that flyer out of my coupon drawer. And give it to my sister with just one kid.

Michelle Marshall is currently the mother of five girls.

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