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What Do You Do to Pacify Your Children?

We’re at a point now, and it’s been this way for a few months, where going to restaurants with Preston is not terribly fun for anyone. If we’re with other kids—his own age, older, younger, doesn’t matter—he can sit there for an hour or more. Especially when those other kids are his cousins; I’m not sure who’s more entertained, him or them. But out to dinner with just the three of us? We spend more time trying to keep his hands out of the food, away from the forks and knives, the hot coffee, syrup, what have you, than we do actually eating. Preston's got long arms, great dexterity and he’s fast, so you can imagine the difficulties. We take home more leftovers than we ever end up eating. I almost never get through a meal feeling satisfied (it’s true: moms never have time to eat!).

I used to think it was terrible when I’d see a kid at a restaurant watching a movie on his portable DVD player. I’d immediately condemn the parents, assuming they’d simply given up. I thought the kids must be entitled brats for getting to do whatever they wanted—and at the dinner table! It didn’t occur to me that it was the parents getting to do what they wanted. I guess you can say we’ve become those parents again, but maybe we’re worse. We use an iPad instead of a DVD player (or an iPacifier as I like to call it).

Did I think this is what I’d be using it for when I got it to replace my old laptop? No way. But I have to say, it’s probably the single best invention for parents right now. I haven’t even scratched the surface of the available apps, but the few I’ve dowloaded so far have been life savers lately (and they’re all pretty educational—I especially love the “I Hear Ewe” animal sounds app). Even just using it to watch episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba during a long car ride, or particularly long meal—as far as I’m concerned this thing has paid for itself. Look at all the food I’m not wasting! We’re still in that small window of opportunity when Preston is interested in the applications I’ve downloaded, but he doesn’t know how to navigate to them himself. Not that he doesn’t need to be monitored—because if that thing winds up on the floor…well… let’s just hope it doesn’t.

Don’t get me wrong: We don’t use it just to use it. I only take it out of my bag when things get desperate, like toward the end of a meal when he’s done eating but we haven’t started yet. Not that we spend much of our time in restaurants anymore, but when we do it’d be nice to eat the food we ordered. And for the most part, Preston loves car rides—but on those rare occasions when he gets antsy or crabby, like on our way home from the pumpkin patch yesterday we got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, having that iPad handy saved us from a meltdown. We just plopped it on his lap, and DJ Lance Rock did the rest. By the way, we took Preston to see Yo Gabba Gabba Live! this weekend—his first official concert—and he LOVED it. Highly recommend.

It’d be fascinating to get a glimpse into what other parents use to pacify their children. I bet if we all spilled the contents of our purses or diaper bags, we’d learn a few new tricks from each other. So I’ll start: In my purse right now, I have a small makeup bag, wallet, personal Blackberry, work Blackberry, pen, business cards, receipts, scraps of paper with random notes, toy cars for Preston, poop bags for Barkley, house keys, and of course my iPad. In my diaper bag, I always have: burp cloth(s), extra T-shirt and pants, socks, extra diapers, wipeys, hand sanitizer, Aquafor, Desitin, Baby Orajel, diaper poopy bags, bubbles, on-the-go toys like plastic car keys, soft balls, Sophie the Giraffe, mini maracas, and that Baby Einstein hand-held music thing that I usually call an iPod but it isn’t. And I always carry a hat, bib, snacks, spoon and, now that he’s drinking whole milk, at least one extra bottle. (We like to be prepared.)  You can do a lot with your house keys, bubbles are key, and spoons always make for great drum sticks.

What’s in your purse and/or diaper bag right now? Any tricks up your sleeve?