Is this something you’ve ever given a thought to? I hadn’t. Until I attempted an outing to a cinema with my 3 nephews and 2 daughters. Which you can read about here. But for some reason, I had pretty much forgotten about what happens when you have too many children.
How many is too many?
Well, this is actually kind of difficult to answer, because there are so many variables.
- The ages of the children
- Whether they are related to each other
- What kind of activity you’re planning
- Whether it’s an activity that requires skill
- How often the children have done the activity before
- How excited or excitable they are
- The adult : children ratio
- Where you are
- How well planned the day/activity is
- Whether you have everything you need
- How impulsive you or they are
The ideal scenario is that ; you have a group of children who all get on really well, aren’t related to each other, have a similar skill set, are fed and watered, not at all tired, have planned the activity to the hilt, prepared for every eventuality and there are at least 2 adults for groups of 3 or more.
How do I know this?
Mostly, because I’m an idiot.
If I cast my mind back to the super-stressful trip to the cinema, it’s obvious where I went wrong. I hadn’t planned it. The children were all tired as they’d been up super early. They weren’t fed. Not only were the 3 boys related to each other, and the 2 girls related to each other, but both groups were also related. (This might not be an issue in those fairytale families I’ve heard about. The ones where all the children get along really well, never argue or try to kill each other.)
Going to the cinema was a bad choice, because it required them all to sit still and be quiet. Which is difficult to do when you’re fighting over armrests, thumping each other and constantly getting up and down to go the toilet. And the biggest issue was, there was only one
idiot adult in charge of them all.
For this scenario, I was at least one adult short. Two extra would have been better. At least then we could have say child – adult – child – adult – child – adult – child. Which would have negated a lot of the stress, thumping and arguing. Hey ho. Lesson learned.
Lesson not learned
You know how we’re supposed to learn from our mistakes? Well, we don’t always, especially when we’re stressed.
“Stress can affect how memories are formed. When stressed, people have a more difficult time creating short-term memories and turning those short-term memories into long-term memories, meaning that it is more difficult to learn when stressed.”
Via Very Well Mind
At least that goes some way towards explaining why I never learn from stressful outings.
I did it again recently. Not taking a load of children to the cinema. No, I remembered that film-watching required far too much sitting still and shushing. This time I took 4 children aged between 8 and 10 ice skating.
What on earth was I thinking?
Skating on thin ice
Emily was having a friend over for a sleepover and as usual, I planned an activity so they didn’t get bored. The girls really wanted to go ice skating, which was fine by me. This is the kind of activity that wears them out a nice amount, so they aren’t up all night. I’d mentioned it to my sister who thought she might bring her boys along too.
So far so good.
On the afternoon of the sleepover, my sister wasn’t feeling well and said they wouldn’t be coming. This upset my middle nephew who really REALLY wanted to try it out. I hate seeing children upset, so I offered to take him as well. My thinking being that if Emily and her friend wanted to skate off, Ruby wouldn’t be left out.
Nephew agreed and after waiting 27 years for the girls to get changed and get ready to go we set off.
Emily and Ruby go ice skating quite often now because they absolutely love it. And they have got really rather good at it. Emily’s friend has been a couple of times, and is getting more confident. My nephew on the other hand hadn’t been at all. But it didn’t matter, said his cousins, they would show him what to do.
Once we got to the ice rink, we encountered our first problem.
I don’t know
After paying, we queued up for the ice skates. Neither Emily’s friend, or my nephew had any idea what size feet they had. I tried looking under the tongues of their shoes and under the sole, but couldn’t find a number. In the end we just had to guess and try on a few pairs of skates.
Sounds simple enough right? It really wasn’t. I don’t know if you’ve been ice skating or not, but ice skates are not exactly easy to put on someone else’s feet. Particularly so when they don’t fit. Eventually we found the right sizes and it was time to do them up. Usually, this is pretty easy, because I only have 2 children to do and they’re quite good at taking turns.
Trying to put 8 ice skates on 8 feet whilst crouching on the floor and trying to keep my balance was far from easy. And it really didn’t help that they were shouting at me;
“Mum, do mine first.”
“No Mum, do mine!”
“Auntie Hannah, can you help me?”
“Hannah, can you do me next?”
“Muuuum! Do mine, I want to get on the ice first.”
“Muuuuuuuum!!! Do me, I’m the eldest.”
“But Mum, if you do me I can go and get the penguin ready.”
“Hannah, my foot is stuck”
“Auntie Hannah, I’ve lost a sock.”
“Ruby stop touching me.”
“You stop touching me”
And so on…
On to the ice
Some years and a few more grey hairs later, all 8 feet were strapped in all 8 skates and they were ready to go on the ice.
Emily and Ruby skated off, the friend started off slowly, holding on to the side and my nephew said;
I didn’t think there would be real iceLT Jan 2020
I laughed, then realised he was being serious. When I asked him what he thought they would be doing, he said;
I thought it would be like sliding on the floor with socks onLT Jan 2020
Bless him! I’d forgotten he had never been before.
Usually, when I take the girls on their own, they’re happy enough skating around whilst I have a coffee and watch from the spectator bench.
Unfortunately, this was not possible when going with 4 children.
This trip gave me a small insight into what life as a celebrity might be like. I have never had my name (or variations of my name) called so many times.
From demands to watch a particular skill, to wanting help with taking the skates off again because a sock felt weird. My attention was demanded constantly.
OK celebrities aren’t usually asked to assist a small child with a sock problem, but they do have their names called a lot by the paparazzi. So it’s almost the same thing.
I think there were about 3 minutes out of the 90 that we were at the rink, where all 4 children were on the ice at the same time. Which is about 2.7% of the time.
The other 97.3% of the time was spent;
- Helping someone take their skates off,
- Helping someone put their skates on again,
- Sorting out weird sock problems,
- Re-arranging hair into scrunchies,
- Pulling someone’s trousers up,
- Taking someone’s coat off,
- Getting drinks,
- Getting snacks,
- Lifting penguins on or off the ice,
- Helping nephew on or off the ice,
- Encouraging nephew that it’s normal to start off not being able to do it,
- Trying to prevent nephew being hen-pecked constantly,
- Telling the girls to leave him alone,
- Attempting to take photos of one or some of them,
- Sticking my bottom in the air whilst trying to pull ice skates off sweaty socks,
- Explaining to nephew that the people on Dancing on Ice have loads of practice and don’t just get on the ice and do it,
- Swapping Emily’s skates because she was convinced one was ‘behaving’ differently on the ice to the other one,
- Trying to explain to the perplexed staff member what was allegedly wrong with the skates,
- Having to help her put a different pair of skates on,
- Begging them to stand still so I could get one photo of them all together.
See? Absolutely no time for coffee. Or for sitting down. (2 minutes having a wee doesn’t count).
By the time they’d started saying they were hungry for something other than a snack I was more than ready to leave.
Even this was stressful! They all wanted me to pull their skates off at the same time. Emily was desperate for a wee so I helped her take hers off first, much to the consternation of Ruby, who then threw a strop. And refused to speak to anyone for 10 minutes.
I suggested going to KFC for dinner, which was met with a huge cheer from everyone except for Ruby. Ruby who was intent on punishing everyone because she hadn’t got her skates off first.
Then came the most tense stand-off in the history of parenting over McDonalds Vs KFC.
I’m not even ashamed to admit that I resorted to bribery to end the stand-off. And even though Ruby officially gave in to where everyone else wanted to go, she still won the battle overall…Which cost me an unscheduled trip to a Waffle & Icecream restaurant for desert.
Mind you, after the disaster we had in KFC where the staff managed to get pretty much every single item on our order wrong, Kaspa’s Deserts was an actual treat.
I’m not a desert person usually, but I must have been craving sugar after all that stress.
So, what does happen if you have too many children then? Your stress levels will go through the roof. You won’t get to sit down. Coffee is a pipe dream. You will be incredibly harassed. It’s possible you’ll resort to some form of bribery to prevent absolute disaster. But if you’re very clever, you’ll learn from this and never put yourself in a situation where you are so outnumbered by children.
As for me, no doubt i’ll forget about all the stress and attempt another outing in the very near future.