While loading my groceries into the car a few days ago I noticed a young mom with three young children, getting them organized into her own car. It took her quite a while buckling various kids into a couple of car seat, then the eldest on into a harness of a booster seat. It made me think back into my own struggles when taking my four young daughters on outings.
First came the job of getting the most important item ready for any excursion with four pre-schoolers. The large bag of “stuff”. This was before the advent of decent disposable diapers, so several clean diapers went in the bag first. Two of the girls were in the wonderful transition of toilet training, so several pairs of underpants went in the bag. A couple of clean tee shirts were next plus a damp washcloth for quick face polishing.
Next item into the bag was “clean” snacks, apple slices, plain crackers etc., followed by various favourite toys, which were very necessary for quieter journeys. Next came the quandary of who to get ready first. If I got the kids dressed first, they stood a great chance of being messy while I got myself dressed, if I changed first, I would be a sweaty mess after dressing four little ones. Usually I got four kids partially ready, a quick fix on my own appearance and then finish off the kids.
Franklin would never have reached the Pole if he had to put winter clothes onto kids before he left the tent. This was the days prior to girls wearing pants, so first item to go on was knitted tights, ugh..a nightmare! Putting unwilling legs into tights is like stuffing a sausage into it’s skin. I would anchor each kid into a chair, tied in with a tea towel to prevent too much wriggling. Each foot would be stuffed into the toe of the tights then began the impossible job of pulling the tight fitting fabric over unwilling legs.
One of my daughters had legs like rubber and her leg would keep flopping about in the tights, making pulling them up impossible. One day I told her, very firmly, to keep her leg straight. She obeyed and shot out her foot right into my nose. After picking myself up off the floor and wiping the tears from my eyes, I would try again. By the time each child was dressed for outdoors, I was ready for a nap.
Getting on the bus was a nightmare with the oldest one running upstairs, the middle one clinging to my leg, so she wouldn’t get forgotten and the twins tucked under one arm, while I hauled their stroller and accompanying crap onto the bus.
Once I learned how to drive things became so much easier. A large pad was kept in the back of the station wagon and each kid would be tossed in with snacks and toys. It was heaven not having to worry about getting on and off busses and keeping the kids seated and quiet during the journey. In the back of the car they played and rolled all over, they could sing and make noise and I didn’t care. Not for our age group was the struggling into straps, harnesses and baby seats, the kids had complete freedom in the car and quite often, all four of them lay on their backs and drummed on the ceiling with their feet. I could put up with the din as they were not bothering anyone else. On the way home, usually all four of them would fall asleep and I could get groceries put away in peace while they napped in the back of the car.
Most people I knew used their cars in a similar fashion and I never heard of kids getting hurt by travelling this way, now of course, it seems really irresponsible to have kids loose in a car.
Prior to having children, Dave and I used to go out most Sundays with his parents, for a drive into the country. Dave’s father had a mid sized van which he used for his business. It had a bench seat in the front and two long wooden benches running back to front at the rear of the van. In the space between the benches, Dave would wedge two rocking chairs, from out of his parent’s living room. His mom and I would sit, in style, on the chairs and really enjoy the ride. The two men up front would drive us to places that they were interested in, usually a sewage works, a dam or a big bridge they wanted to see.
In the back seat, we didn’t really care where we went, we loved talking to each other and were happy to go anywhere. When we got to the appointed spot, we would make lunch while the men made tea on a portable stove or the Volcano kettle. This was a strange piece of equipment that I have never seen before or afterwards, but it did a marvellous job. It had an outer, metal jacket, into which went cold water and an inner cone into which went bits of grass and kindling. The kindling was lit with a match and, in a couple of minutes, the water would boil and tea would be made.
What simple things made life wonderful in those days. We would walk for miles with our dogs, marvel at the beauty of the English countryside and just enjoy each other’s company. Our days of going places in the back of the old van made for wonderful memories. The look on people’s faces when we told them we had driven fifty miles to have lunch at a sewage works, was quite priceless. But for a couple of gallons of gas we would have super days out and never thought of doing anything more “exciting”.
When our children came along, Dave and I would do similar journeys, always packing a lunch and going into the country where dogs and kids could run wild. We had no extra money but our children had great experiences and all learned a love of the countryside. All of our girls married men with similar interests and my grandchildren have all been brought up with a love of the countryside and respect for the environment.
I thoroughly believe that if kids are brought up with a budget to live by and simple pleasures, they become more satisfied as adults. Our life is still very simple and both of us still enjoy nature and the joy that can be found when walking the hillsides and pathways of our surrounding area. Leave the car behind and find out the beauty and enjoyment that is to be found when you get off the main street. A cheese sandwich and a bottle of water, enjoyed while sitting on a hillside is truly a feast, when someone you love is by your side to enjoy the simple pleasures with you