The next couple of days we really ramped up the activities and stress levels. We were going to be taking them out all day and we had been given some suggestions and foolishly we thought they were good ideas – how naive we were :-). So taking them to a large aquarium and busy public swimming pool it was.What could possibly go wrong?
While they both sounded like fun, our overactive imagination started up again with the worries and doubts. How would taking two kids we had only just met to a crowded tourist attraction work? Would they run away? If they got lost would they say we were their mummy and daddy, would we even recognise them in a room full of kids (do all kids look the same…….. ) These may seem like silly worries to you, but with the weight of the kids, foster parents, social workers galore, and of course our own expectations we were worried about getting it right and the smallest things start to nag at the back of your mind.
So first up was the aquarium, which was about an hour drive away (an hour drive with kids – madness I hear you cry). Luckily we were getting the hang of this, and had some more nursery rhymes for the car. (Score 1 for Daddy)
MY TIP – Get the car ready for trips, not just the functional things like car seats, but also entertainment and distractions. And don’t forget water and snacks…
We were pleasantly surprised with the drive as both were little angels. Was this due to them being on their best behaviour to impress their new mummy or daddy, or was it due to them be angels. I think the latter, as they are of course perfect children 🙂
We got to the aquarium to be greeted by our first obstacle. The queue for the tickets – lots of people, plus to over excited kids – yippee. I decided to go up while S waited and bribed the kids with snack time. I could tell she was a little nervous as well, but we felt it best if we kept them out the Q and away from the heavy traffic, but we were still worried they would not make a scene. Again they pleasantly surprised us by staying close by holding S’s hand. It was such a cute sight I had to take a picture – I think you call that a kodak moment (look it up youngsters).
So after being suitably admonished for taking a picture without S being ready (but by goodness was it a cute sight so she had better get used to it), I headed into the q. One bonus of the authorities getting the age of our younger child wrong was we could get him in for free (anyone that knows me will know that is one of my favourite words.)
Without want to bore you on every fish we saw, the whole trip was really pleasant and we (when I say we, I mean me – it was my turn to be the bad daddy) only managed to make one child cry when she wanted to go into a soft play area, but was 6 months too old, so I said no (boo I hear you cry). Little did I realise that she always went in and I was being very (over?) strict following the rules, especially when I looked more closely there were lot of kids bigger than her. I think my reasoning was I was so worried about setting boundaries that I became almost automated in following rules.
MY TIP: While it is important to set strong boundaries, also have a little bit of think about the ones that are really important. I.e. lighten up Ralph.
The main stress (after we realised we were quite good at tag teaming the kids to keep them in sight at all times – ok, after also realising that our younger child was shorter that some displays so disappeared a few times lol), was lunch in the canteen. Even without kids this is a stressful and chaotic time, often descending into a scrum for the food and tables. We again split the responsibility of table finding while looking after the kids, and queuing for the food. However all good plans and everything, as they decided they wanted to come to ‘help’ buy the food. (I think the word help is always going to be a subjective word from now on I think). Luckily we had been given some advice on what food they liked (cheese for him and ham for her), so the actual decision making was easier. The canteen also had kids packs to help stressed out parents get through the ordeal – and in my mind easy is best.
MY TIP – Check what they like to eat as it is a mine field….and if they need to have the same stuff and follow the advice. And don’t worry too much about balanced diet at these places. There is plenty of other meals to get the veg into them 🙂
You know how I mentioned the main stress above. I lied…the main main stress was the gift shop. All parents I expect will dread these shops that are positioned carefully to extract coins from unwary travellers. We stepped in and felt a cold sweat start. Could we get through here without a melt down. We always planned to buy them a gift to remember the day, but were not quite ready for the shear selection on offer. We were also aware that these places had been a trigger before (overwhelmed children anyone). We had decided to narrow the choices down to 2 small things for each child, so as not to give them too many choices. But this still seemed to be too much and there ended up a load of sniffles and comparing of sizes of gifts ( see size is important). It finally got to the stage that I took whatever was in the hands of the kids and bought them ( luckily not too greedy just competitive). It of course was not the one they now wanted, but I did not want to sleep in the gift shop waiting for them to decide. I also caved a little as when at the till as two sets of doe eyes looked up at me and asked if they could also get a ballon. (You are such a softy Ralph, but I really don’t care :-O)
MY TIP. Start letting the kids know how many gifts they will get at the start of the day. Help manage their expectations. And be a softie as well.
So after a very noisy day (mostly other kids I will point out) we headed back to the foster family with a head full of memories, a tummy full of canteen food, a camera full of photos and boot full of balloons.
Tomorrow we were going swimming….. god help us and pray for a life guard!