The arrival of spring is an exciting time — who doesn't love warmer weather and lighter clothing? But any parent will tell you that for them, spring means days spent outside the house, which in turn leads to worn-out kiddos, which leads to the inevitable meltdown, tantrum, or unplanned car nap. It's parenting's biggest catch-22: get out of the house and disrupt the schedule, or miss out on the fun but not nap time. It's a conundrum that gentle-parenting advocate Lisa Jean-Francois and husband Andre know all too well. They have a 2-year-old toddler, Julien-Michel (J-Mi), and an 8-year-old, Jackson-Blaise (JB), so they're no strangers to the struggle of a disrupted schedule. Below are Lisa's tips for enjoying the spring weather while minimizing stress — from how H&M can make getting dressed an easy feat to meeting your child's needs mid-meltdown, here's what you need to know.
First, pick activities you know everyone will enjoy. With an almost six-year age gap between her children, you'd think finding an outdoor outing everyone can enjoy would be difficult, but Lisa says they both enjoy zoos, parks, and museums. "J-Mi just takes it all in and is happy to just be with us. JB seems to enjoy anything kid-focused, regardless of age." Outings can interrupt your schedule, but Lisa just rolls with it.
"I've had to let go of missed nap times with J-Mi," Lisa says. "There is such a large age difference between the boys that it makes it challenging to keep them on the same or even similar schedule when it's time for outings." But she does have one tip that might make it easier for naps on the go: provide them with a familiar comfort.
"Both boys still drink two cups of warm milk morning and night, so I always make sure to pack J-Mi's sippy cup and usually stop off at a local coffee shop to get some warm milk when it's time for a nap," she says. "He doesn't mind sleeping in his stroller, so we can get his nap in that way."
So maybe for your little one, it's a favorite stuffed animal or blankie or sound machine. Having those portable objects with you while you're on the go may help soothe a cranky baby or toddler.
Another way to ensure stress-free days out of the house is to plan ahead and pack as much as possible, from clothing to snacks to extra diapers.
"For me, it's about keeping [clothing] light and comfortable," she says. "Sneakers and/or slides are a must for our feet. Light denim and linen from H&M are perfect for the warmer days and layers! Layering is great because it's usually cold in the morning and evenings, but afternoons are warm so you can just remove the layers as the day warms up."
But as the saying goes, even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry, and you can never predict a child's mood or temperament. When a public meltdown ensues, Lisa says it's important to just focus on yourself and your child and not worry about what other people around you may be thinking.
"Meltdowns are usually the result of overstimulation, hunger, and/or fatigue," she explains. "I try to address those needs immediately. If the child still can't pull himself together, we just leave and go home."
It's important to know that those types of scenes aren't a reflection of you as a parent, and everyone — literally every parent ever — has experienced a similar moment. Don't play the blame game, especially if you're putting the blame on yourself for disrupting their schedule so you can do something fun.
"I understand why it's important. Kids really do love schedules," she says. "But I've gotten to the place where I don't beat myself up if my kid misses a nap or two."
Photographer: Timothy Smith; Art Director: Meg Konigsburg; Producer: Hannah Lee, Cassie Doyle; Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi; Prop Stylist: Catherine Pearson; Makeup Artist: Jaleesa Jaikaran; Hair Stylist: Helen Reavey