“Let’s have a group day out!”, announced the organiser of our local toddler group. My initial reaction was positive. I told her to count us in and paid my tenner.
It was arranged that we travel by minibus to the local zoo, which was located approximately 45 minutes away. It all sounded so straightforward. All I had to do was turn up at 9.15am with my 3-year-old and 18-month-old, packed lunches and an enthusiastic attitude.
The day before, I checked the hourly weather forecast and this revealed both sunshine and showers. An irritating combination as it requires quite a diverse range of items. I duly packed puddlesuits, wellies, sun block and sun hats into a rucksack. Then went in a change of clothes for the older one and a change of clothes for the other one. Plus a stash of nappies, wipes and nappy bags. And a couple of water bottles. When I tried to ram three lunch boxes in the top, the rucksack started to groan under the strain and spat out the top two boxes. I was defeated. A Mary Poppins’ handbag this was not.
Refusing to give up, I repacked the nappies, wipes, sun block and spare trousers into a smaller bag and managed to get the rucksack fully zipped up. Fine. So all I need to do is turn up at the bus with a rucksack and a smaller nappy bag. Oh and I couldn’t forget the enthusiastic attitude.
Then I remembered about child safety. Two children under 4 on minibus? Maybe I should take their car seats on the bus. Who am I kidding it’s about safety? It’s about control. It’s about not having to restrain my kids with two lap belts. What if the younger one manages one of her twisty, shouty, struggly lunges and I lose my grasp of her? It’s not worth not taking the seats. Decision made. So all I need to do is turn up at the bus at 9.15am with a rucksack, a smaller nappy bag, and two car seats. No problem. Enthusiastic attitude starting to lessen, but still there.
45 minutes on a bus? How am I going to keep two children entertained on the bus. Books. That’s what a good parent would pack. No room in the rucksack, so into the nappy bag they go. Children’s books are quite heavy, but they’ll be worth it. Better pack the tablet. Probably won’t need to use it, but better safe than sorry. No room in the small nappy bag. Better look out the big one. Enthusiastic attitude starting to be replaced with a manic glare.
How could I forget about the buggy? School girl error. The younger one would never survive a whole day at the zoo without the buggy. I would never survive a whole day at the zoo without the buggy. I’ll probably be able to shove the rucksack in the shopping basket underneath so I won’t have to carry it around. Yes. Oh no, wait, the shopping basket has a huge picnic blanket in it. Can’t leave that behind. I’ll just carry the rucksack. Right. 9.15am. Rucksack, large nappy bag, two car seats, one buggy. And the enthusiastic attitude. Can’t possibly forget that.
In the morning (after a disturbed sleep filled with nightmares pertaining to lost toddlers and a missed bus) I packed the car with all the necessary items for our trip. The boot of our car was jam-packed. How could we possibly need all of this stuff? We arrived at the the meeting point and I assembled our mountainous pile of luggage at the doors to the minibus, feeling a little sheepish at the sheer enormity of our stash. Looking around at other parents waiting to board, I saw similar piles of stuff they probably wouldn’t need, but couldn’t live without. Not many of them were sporting the look of enthusiasm either. It’s not easy preparing for a day out, but it’s totally worth it. We had a great day but we didn’t use the puddlesuits nor the wellies but I felt better for having them with us.