Venturing Out Into the World

As I've said before, I love getting out with my kids. As much as I would classify myself as a "stay at home mom," I'm definitely more of a "get out and venture into the world with my kids while also maintaining some kind of order at home" kinda mom.
Oh, I get looks. Lots of looks. When you see identical twins walk into a store, of course you give them a second glance. You wonder how similar they look, if they are indeed twins and how they're different. I get that. But you wouldn't believe some of the facial expressions that come my way when I enter a store. Disgust, curiosity, amazement and perhaps a little bit of insanity. I'm trying not to be so sensitive about it. Can you tell? ;) It's just a side effect of having twins. I know my kids are super cute. Go ahead, give 'em a look. Point and stare at their long eyelashes. They're adorable, I know. At least that's what I tell myself they're saying.
When I had Megan, the looks got even more frequent. And expressive. You'd think I had four heads and three arms with how obvious people are with their double-takes. Yes, I have three children. Yes, two of them are twins. Yes, they are identical. Yes, I am proud to have 'finally' gotten a daughter. No, I am not some kind of breeding experiment gone wrong. Geesh. An older gentleman in McDonald's saw me enter the restaurant a few weeks ago with the boys holding onto my jeans pockets (a rule we have for crossing a parking lot) and the baby on my hip. As I tried manuevering my crew to the restroom, he gruffed, "Ya got enough kids there?" I was so appalled by the abrasive nature of his comment - especially when my kids were behaving so well - that I responded with a straight face, "Oh, this is nothing. I've got five more in the car." That shut him up.
One of the best comments I've received came from a middle-aged woman in the grocery store last winter when I was pregnant with Megan. She pointed to my boys and then pregnant belly and joked, "Girlie, if I were you, I'd sleep with one eye open." It still makes me laugh out loud!
But I digress.
I like taking my kids out with me, so I have to be intentional about how I want them to act. I thought I'd share some of the things that seem to work with my kids, making them pleasant to be around when we're out in public... most of the time anyway. ;)
First thing: we talk about it. As we're getting our shoes on, getting into the car and driving to our destination, I tell them what will happen and how they're supposed to act. "Okay, we're going to the library today. We're going to borrow some new books and DVDs! What do we do when we're in the library?" We talk about how we have to be quiet, walk and not yell or they will ask us to leave.
Second thing: we joke about what we're NOT going to do. I sorta started this on accident because I felt like all I was doing was lecturing my kids about what they should do. I started being silly about the behavior I would NOT expect from them. "When we go into the library, are we going to run around the bookshelves and throw the books into the air?" NOOOO! "Are we going to hit the computer with our boots and do somersaults on the floor?" NOOOO! "Are we going to yell at our brother and hit him in the head with a video?" NOOOO! All of this is received with uncontrollable laughter. They get it. And they always ask for more. "Mom, tell more jokes!"
They know what to do, they know what not to do. So now, comes praise.
This is the last thing. I praise them like crazy. The moment I see them do something I asked, I jump on it. "Uhh! Benjamin! You're whispering in the library! What a good listener you are. Everyone will be so happy you're being quiet so they can read their books." "Jack, you held the door open for me without me even asking. What a gentleman you are! That is so helpful to me when I'm holding Megan!"
It sounds silly, but it totally works. Sometimes, they'll ask me to call Daddy to tell them that they were being a gentleman, a concept he started encouraging a few months ago. So I do as soon as we get into the car. If he's not available to talk, we call my mom, my dad, my sister, anyone that will answer their phone so I can brag on my proud toddlers. And. They. Love. It.
I suppose I forgot to mention this one. It's a biggie. When I'm in the store, the library, the museum, wherever, my total attention is on them. I don't talk on the phone, I try to shop quickly and move fast. I keep them stimulated in conversation (or with a game of "I Spy") so they don't get bored and start making trouble. Trust me, that can happen quickly. Just give me one minute of looking up a recipe on my phone and I've got two boys spitting on eachother and pulling their brother's hair.
Alright, I forgot another one. Perhaps I should have organized my thoughts a little better before I started this post, huh? Always keep an ace in your pocket. Not literally, but figuratively. Give them something to look forward to when they do well. And be prepared NOT to give it to them if they don't. It doesn't have to be food and it doesn't have to be expensive. "Boys, if you are good listeners today, when we get home, I will make each of you your own paper airplane." or "If you act like a gentleman this morning when we're at the store, we can fingerpaint before your nap." or "If you keep your socks on in McDonald's Playplace today, I will give you your Happy Meal toy when I buckle you into your carseat." And believe it or not, they go for it. It seems to work well when I give them something to look forward to. Something I know they like.
I should have also prefaced this with the fact that we DO have meltdowns in public. Gosh, I really should have written an outline before I started this post. Hope I haven't lost you completely. We have bad days. We have crying fits. We have impromptu wrestling matches in the middle of Target. It happens. In those cases, I just try to keep my eyes down and get out as quickly as possible. When I have a moment to recollect my thoughts (usually, when they're sleeping,) I try and reevaluate what I could have done differently and make a plan for next time. Well, that and usually a good venting session with my husband :)
I like getting out of the house. I like being with my kids. These ideas help make both scenarios possible. 
Because as we all know, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

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