In the past couple of holiday-themed weeks I have found myself using kid-free hours — when they are at school or with their dad — to run to the UPS store, feed a friend’s cats or return overdue books to the library. You likely try to get stuff done without little kids in tow. It can be so much more efficient –even relaxing! Duh.
But there are plenty of reasons why you should make a point of dragging the minions with on your next errand spree. Here are five:
1. Errands teach your kids about life and that is your job as a parent. There is so much pressure to make every moment with your kids a special, Hallmark moment to cherish forever. You know what else is special? Competent adults. Instead of saving all your family time for kite flying and paper snowflake making, teach them about shopping for best values negotiating customer service. Even my 3-year-old learns about maneuvering through the world by observing me interacting with the salesman selling me a new blender.
2. Kids need to know that life is not all fun. There are many mundane, practical things that must happen to get through each and every day. You want brownies? Well, first we have to go to the bank to get the money to go to the grocery store to buy the sugar and cocoa and eggs and flour and vanilla and butter, then lug it all home before we even start baking. You like getting Christmas gifts? We have to stand in line a long time at the post office to buy stamps to send holiday cards so that our relatives remember we’re alive so they will send you one.
3. Kids need to know that anything can be fun. Small, meaningful interactions are the stuff of life. My kids love visiting the fruit market where the large Greek clerk with frosted plumb-colored lips always remarks at how big they’ve grown since last week and gives them each a miniature banana. At the bank they rush for the bowls of lollipops and pour themselves Styrofoam cups of cold water from the cooler. My friend, who was raised in Bavaria, has fond childhood memories of accompanying his mother on her weekly visits to the butcher who always passed him a single slice of a certain, mild sausage while they waited.
4. Errands pass the time. Now, yeah, sure, we all say we’re super busy and over-scheduled. But if you have little kids like I do, finding stuff to do in the afternoons — especially when the weather is the pits – can be a challenge. Take the rugrats along to the drug store or to get the car oil changed. Live in the world. Find ways to turn it into an adventure (“Let’s pretend that while we go through the car wash we’re on a pirate’s ship in a storm!”).
5. Take your kids along on errands because you don’t have a choice. Maybe you really are over-scheduled and have no other option but to drag your children along to the grocery store and bank and pharmacy and Target, even though you could do it alone in a quarter of the time. But you can’t. So make the best of it. Find ways to teach your kids along the way. Make it hilarious. Because if you can’t control the situation, why stress about it?