Every so often when I mention I go shopping with seven children - people freak out!
How is it possible? What do you do? Why would you want to do that?
Are the most common questions I get asked.
So I thought I would share with you how I make it work.
1. The invite.
It is not often that I go shopping with all seven of my children. Mostly, I take 2 or 3 with me or even just 1 to the shops. Always before I go shopping with all of my children I ask them this question:
"I need to go to the shops. I want to take all of you with me.
Do you want to come to the shops with me and can you stay with me the whole time?"
The older kids know what I mean when I ask that question and for the younger kids I expand on it. I get down on their level and explain that if they want to come to the shops with me it means they need to listen to what I say, they need to stay with me at all times and I need to be able to see them at all times. If they are not able to do that, we will not go and we will stay home. I wait for another time to purchase what I need. Most things are not an emergency.
Lucky for me, my kids love going to the shops and it is rare that anyone will say No. If someone does say No then I see how many other kids have said Yes and have a talk to that one child. I explain that they are the only one who desire to stay home and 6 against 1 normally wins out on a change of mind.
2. The Preparation
Taking seven kids to the shops is an expedition. Rarely do we all just jump in the car and rush out to the shops to grab something. Before we go, I check that everyone has shoes on, is dressed properly, has been to the toilet and has had something to eat and drink. I so dislike getting hassled for food and drink when we are out. My rule is if you cry and whinge for food and drink - you get none. It is a hard lesson to learn. Let me just say that if you watch six other kids eating food and you are the only one not eating food because you hassled mum - you learn your lesson pretty darn fast!
I rarely take any supplies with me. I normally just grab my purse and go. We are past the nappy bag stage and every so often I might take some snacks from home. Normally we just go to to the shops get what we need, have a quick look around and come home.
3. The Reminder
Once I have all seven kids sitting in the car with seat belts on, I know they are trapped and have my attention so I give them the reminder talk. It kind of goes like this:
"Just wanted to remind you that we are going out to the shops to get ... and ... please do not hassle me about toys, and food and drink. If you like something you can show me, I like seeing what you are interested in and I will check the price and think about it. That does not mean we are going to buy it. Please remember you need to stay with me at all times, I need to see where you are and if you do need to go to the toilet - tell me right away! Does everyone understand what I am saying??"
Then when all the kids have said yes, I start the car and off we go!
4. The Shopping Expedition
The first thing I always do is head straight for what we need to get. I do not allow myself to get distracted incase something goes wrong. With seven kids...all sorts of things can go wrong! Haha!
Then when we have what we need we can have a look around and enjoy ourselves. We always go looking in the toy section...with looking being the key word here. It normally involves my children testing out as many products as they can...they are a little hands on...so it means supervising that.
Can you see Chelsea is holding a Diva bag? Yes I took all seven of my children into a jewellery store. They are very well behaved generally and I am that crazy!!!
Sometimes I let my children run a little way ahead of me to kind of give them the feeling that they are exploring the shops as well and to have a little fun. I do not mind as long as I can see them and it often means they are trying to do something funny, like the time we found Harmony standing like this:
If my children are really well behaved we often look in more shops and stay a little longer. Sometimes I like to reward them with a treat and one of the best places I like to stop at to do so is a Bakers Delight where I pick up a finger bun for everyone. They are often not too expensive and I find it fills them up. Of course after our family has stopped by they are normally cleaned out of finger buns for a while!
For me shopping with seven children is not a relaxing event. It involves constantly counting heads, being aware of where each child is and of staying focused on what needs to be accomplished. We do love to go out together though and often have a great time chatting about things that we see, wants and needs that we have for our family and it gives the children things to look forward to for birthdays and Christmas that they see in the stores.
Always, always on the way home in the car I praise my children for how well they have behaved. I try to pick out small experiences that I saw to highlight. I might say, 'Nathan thank you so much for keeping Sam and Eli close by me' or 'Liberty thank you for holding Chelsea's hand'. I find it sends us all home with a good feeling and helps my children know that they can be good so that we can go out again.
On this such expedition as we were all seated having our finger buns a lady came up and asked me if all of those children were mine. I of course replied, yes they are, to which she stated that she was so impressed that I had them so well dressed and so clean.
It constantly amazes me what others think a family with seven children should be like. I think they assume that we are scruffy and messy and that there is constant bad behaviour. We do have days like that in our home and even out at the shops...but most days we are just a normal family doing normal family things...we just do it with bigger numbers.