How do you leave the house with triplets? Just do it. The end.
It really is as simple as that. Except it’s not.
Taking triplets out on our own was—and sometimes still is—a big deal in my triplet social media groups. It was cause for bitten-off fingernails in the days leading up to the outing and dances of joy in the hours following the outing. I didn’t take the kids out solo until they were around 15 months old. And then I had to psych myself up for a week and reward myself with a huge bowl of ice cream that night.
But in the end, it boiled down to just getting out there and doing it. That’s what I tell the triplet parents who are hesitant about leaving the house with their triplets. That and the tips below.
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Do a dry run—with help.
This is most helpful in the early days of venturing out with a 3:1 ratio. Think of the dry run with help as a dress rehearsal for a play.
The dry run helped me become familiar with the experience that is taking triplets out on your own. Through the dry run, I was able to get a feel for the location and how the Tagalongs would do in it as well as predict any hiccups we might encounter during our “real” outing. The dry run helped me feel equipped and ready to handle the outing on my own.
The extra set of hands acted as both support and safety net. When doing a dry run with help, I used Chris or Nana (aka Grandma)—people who know me, the Tagalongs, and our MO like the back of their hand. I “ran the show,” while they acted like the backstage crew, providing supplies and support when needed. After the dry run, they provided valuable feedback about how the outing had gone overall and offered troubleshooting for when I was really on my own. By taming the crazy, they allowed me to focus on the trip’s logistics so I could manage just the crazy the next time. And, if I crashed and burned, at least I did so with someone to help pick up the pieces.
Doing a dry run—and with help, to boot—isn’t essential. But I feel it really set us up for success and made leaving the house with triplets as painless as it could be.
I think my first solo trip with the Tagalongs was to the grocery store for 2 gallons of whole milk. It took me longer to get the kids in and out of the car and carts than it did to push them inside, weave through the busy shoppers, answer nosy questions, and check out. But I’d gone out with them on my own and lived to tell the tale.
I know your friends are taking their littles to Costco, Mommy and Me classes, and the zoo. I know you want to keep up so that you can give your kids a “normal” childhood. But your life situation is different. Going out on your own with triplets is no joke. It requires a lot of equipment and an infinitesimal amount of presence and attention. You’re going to run around and sweat and swear and question what the F you were thinking. Your life situation requires a bit more of dipping your toes into the shallow end than of cannonballing into the deep end.
So set yourself up for success. Start with a trip to the grocery store for one item—yes, one item. Then graduate to a few items, and finally a Walmart or Costco stock-up trip. Start with a 30-minute library story time once a week. Then move on to something more structured, like a music class or swim lessons. Throw a neighborhood playgroup or a park playdate somewhere in there.
Starting small allows you to get your feet wet, build confidence, and develop strategies on a smaller scale so that you can handle those big outings with little or no problems when the time comes.
These will be more unique to you and your triplets, but I’ve found these four strategies to yield the most success in my situation.
- Time store trips with snack time. For whatever reason, giving my kids something to do while I drag them hither and thither seems to keep them happy. If you can’t make this work, allow them to bring a few small toys in with them. It’s basically the same idea, and it makes for a cute exchange when they repeatedly tell the person behind you in the checkout lane that they have a blue car.
- Set up camp in the back. You’re not front-and-center for the action, but you’re also not the action front-and-center. Positioning yourself toward the back allows you to come in with less fanfare and exit quickly if someone has a rough day. We still do this at three-and-a-half-years old.
- Contain, contain, contain. When I went to story time or the park by myself, I lugged around the Summer Infant Pop ‘N Play Portable Playard and didn’t hesitate to plop the kids into it. I didn’t do this for long, but I found it to be super useful in the early days when both the Tagalongs and I were getting used to outings.
- Pick a good travel bag and mode of transportation. Our bag of choice was the Skip Hop Duo Double diaper bag because it could carry everything but the kitchen sink. We rolled up in the Radio Flyer Triple Play Wagon, which we reviewed for you here. If you have the wagon and are considering ditching it because your triplets have outgrown it, think twice. The Tagalongs walk most everywhere now, but we still use the wagon to haul the park toys, little potty, and small cooler that are required for small outings.
Establish ground rules.
Set expectations early on—for everything. Have ground rules for how your triplets enter and exit the car, move to and from the location, and behave at the location. What’s more, have clear consequences on what happens if they don’t follow the rules.
My kids know that when they get in the car, they grab their car toy, get in their seats, and buckle the top buckle. When they get out of the car, they “Put [their] hand on the van, and don’t move” or sit nicely in the wagon, stroller, or cart. If they’re walking to the location, they must hold a hand at all times. At the event, they use listening ears, follow directions, play nicely, and participate in cleanup. If they don’t follow these rules, they know that they won’t be allowed to participate until they do, will earn a time out, or will leave the event.
I have no qualms about disciplining my children in public. When James bit me at our Parks and Rec nursery rhymes class after I tried breaking up a fight between Caleb and him, I excused the two of us, walked him outside, had a short chat with him about his behavior, and then placed him in timeout when we returned to the room. Another time, I pulled my kids from a library music class entirely. James had thrown two separate tantrums, each resulting in the two of us having a chat outside the room. On the third tantrum, I swooped him up, told Caleb and Danae to follow me, apologized to the teacher for our behavior, and walked calmly out of the class. Just because we’re outside our normal environment doesn’t mean we act any differently—or are disciplined any differently.
Unless we’re at the store. If we’re at the store, we’re there for a reason. We have to eat, and I strategically place grocery shopping into our busy schedule, so that’s likely the best time for us to be at the store. I’m not leaving because someone is throwing a fit. And I’m not rewarding misbehavior by leaving or bribing with candy or a toy. The other patrons will simply have to turn a deaf ear toward us.
Know when to call it a day.
My very last soapbox aside, know when you and yours have reached their limits. Then hightail it out of there as fast as you can with three kids and all the ish that goes with them.
But how do you know when it’s time to leave? Your kids will have their own unique tells, but this is what I commonly see in my own littles:
- not listening
- not playing nicely with others
- not showing interest in the activity or toys we brought
- not maintaining focus; being easily distracted
Now yes, most of these signals are hallmarks of babyhood/toddlerhood. But there will be something that screams different about them, and your parent gut will start churning. Trust that gut and move!
Overlook who or what happens.
This is the hardest thing to do, especially for an outing that goes to hell. I still struggle with this, and I take my children somewhere every day.
Leaving the house with triplets requires a lot of planning and—especially in the beginning—psyching yourself up. It can feel like a slap in the face when the outing doesn’t go as planned, one or more of the trio have a rough time, or an outsider doesn’t check their thoughts before allowing them to exit their face. It’s easy to focus on what went wrong instead of what went right. It’s even easier to forget about all the outings that have gone remarkably well. Doing so can lead to frustration and despair and thoughts along the lines of Will we EVER be normal?
Normal is as normal does. Outnumbered and crazy is your normal, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s how you manage and respond to it that makes a difference.
I once had a confrontation with a couple at the park over using the little potty with my children. Their words and the sentiment behind them hit me hard and caused me to doubt decisions I thought worked the best for our situation. A friend I cried to about it said the following: “We all do the best we can. Don’t let this occupy your brain long enough to influence the things you take the kids to do.”
I pass those words of wisdom on to you. Don’t let the tantrum that happens from one end of the library to the next or the harsh soliloquy on your parenting techniques from the grumpy old man in the bread aisle keep you from living life and doing you. Learn from it, move on, and keep on keeping on.
Practice, practice, practice.
The idiom “practice makes perfect” definitely applies to leaving the house with triplets. The more you do it, the more efficient you’ll be. The more you’ll know what to bring and what not to bring and how best to bring it. The more you’ll have a handle on how your kids—each of your kids—reacts to certain situations and how to handle that. The more you’ll know how to respond to awkward questions or rude comments. The more you’ll feel like you have a handle on this triplet parenting thing.
Managing triplets inside your home is challenging, so I understand how the thought of taking them outside your comfort zone makes your knees knock together. But you can’t live life within the walls of your house. You need to get out, your kids need to get out, and you need to do it together. These tips will help you find your way those first few times, and after that, you’ll find what works for you.
And by all means, share your own strategies on how to leave the house with triplets—here (in the comments below), there, and everywhere! Let’s learn from one another and pass along what works and what doesn’t. Good luck, and remember—just do it!