Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Walking with Three

Our little baby is now four months old, and I have recently (and repeatedly) had the realization that when I am out "by myself" during the week, I am actually four people. Four! I used to be just one. I have to confess that for the first time ever, while expecting this baby, I had flashes of worry about not owning a car. I mean, three kids! Our car culture tells us that even a couple of adults require a car to get around on a daily basis. So three kids sounded pretty intimidating, even to me.

But then I remembered that babies come in very small sizes. Not only that, but kids who are small now continue getting bigger and better able to participate in transporting themselves. With that realization, I calmed down a bit. Here are some of the strategies we're employing to get around with our pile of urchins.

A variety of configurations

I've written before about the configurations we use when we go out, configurations that depend on who is traveling, where, and for what purpose. This is a level of planning not usually required for car travel, as the answer is always the same. Are we going to the store? One car, three kids, three car seats. To the library? One car, three kids, three car seats. To the park? One car, three kids, three car seats. Without a car, there are more options, but also more decisions to make. Here are some of our new configurations since adding the new baby. You'll note that most of these are the same as our old ones, just with the baby in a wrap or carrier.

  • Double stroller with baby in wrap - This is best for longer-distance walks, over 1.5 miles or so, especially if I need to carry cargo (groceries, library books, etc.).
  • Kid on bike, single stroller, baby in wrap - Our 4-year-old recently transitioned from a Strider bike to a big-kid bike. If we are going about one mile with little cargo, he rides his bike, and the 2-year-old rides in the single stroller.
  • Kid on bike, toddler on Strider, baby in stroller or wrap - This is just a terrible idea. I have done this for some shorter walks to the playground, less than half a mile, but it is quite inefficient. The 4-year-old is so fast on his bike and the 2-year-old so slow on the Strider that they end up being blocks apart sometimes, with me in the middle trying to keep my eyes on both of them. Bad idea.
  • Kid on foot, toddler on Strider, baby in stroller or wrap - This one works for shorter distances much better because a 4-year-old on foot is about as fast as a toddler on a Strider. 
  • Bus with baby in wrap (with or without a stroller) - By far my least favorite configuration, but I will take the bus to get downtown or occasionally to the library if I am feeling stupid. I bring the stroller to keep the 2-year-old contained, not because she can't walk the distance to the bus stop and back. Riding the bus only becomes really unwieldy if I have quite a bit of cargo (i.e. library books, hence why I should never attempt taking the bus to the library, even when it is raining. Walking is always better). 
I have also had to take the kids by car with visiting relatives in the past few months. I prefer any of the above methods to unloading three kids from car seats and getting them safely across busy parking lots. Yeesh.

Divide and conquer

After two or three kids, I think many parents begin to divide the kids up for errands, so no one parent has to have all the kids in a business establishment unless absolutely necessary. As an example, I never take all the kids to the grocery store unless it is to pick up one emergency item on the way home from someplace else. Weekly grocery trips are done on the weekends with only one or two kids. In fact, I'm not sure why I ever did big grocery trips on weekdays by myself! Live and learn. 

We still go as a family to playgrounds, parks, the library, the children's museum, and other places we can enjoy together.

Look to the future

The great thing about car-free transportation is that you can add on as you go depending on your needs, with relatively little expense. You'll notice that I didn't mention traveling with adult bikes at all. With the littlest one so little, we won't be taking her on our bikes for a while. We occasionally take one or two kids with us on an adult bike, either in the Burley trailer or the iBert seat. I am immensely tempted by cargo bikes, which have the capacity for many children and many groceries and library books, but it doesn't make sense for our situation right now. We live on a very tall hill, in a city with few bike lanes and no protected bikes lanes, so I wouldn't feel comfortable carrying kids to most of our destinations by bike. If we relocate to a more family-friendly biking city, you can bet that I will be test-riding some yummy cargo bikes.