An Instruction Manual for My Children

Haven’t we all said, “I wish this child came with an instruction manual?” I know I have, especially when my children were newborns and crying for no reason (well, one that I could find).  And if you are with a child other than your own, you might not recognize a cry or other indicator of why they are upset.

A couple weeks ago, I went with The Professor (my husband) and eldest child, S, to Disney World.  We decided that we would make this a trip all about S and leave her twin brother and sister at home.  Don’t worry–they are 17 months old, and a week with grandparents spoiling them, well, that’s better than a big mouse.

Keeping up with small children can be hard, especially when you are not with them every day.  You don’t know what they like to eat, what they like to drink-or anything about their daily routine.  That is why I left my in-laws an “instruction manual” for my children.  The “manual” gave them an indication as to what our day is like, what the toddlers like, and all the information my in-laws might need (medicine dosages, etc.).  I didn’t put my children on a schedule, they just worked it out on their own, and I am fiercely protective of that schedule–especially since they only nap once a day.


Now, you might be asking yourself why I am calling what I left a “manual.”  Everyone has seen those cute little babysitter lists with important numbers, bedtime, etc.  Well, what I left was more extreme. I detailed out sleeping schedules, snack and meal options, doctor and pharmacy information-with attached insurance cards (just in case), white-noise machine information, favorite toys, where to set the thermostat, and even instructions on how to use the TV (that was at their request being that we were gone on Super Bowl Sunday).  Yes, my in-laws could call us with questions, but I wanted to leave another option too.  What if we were on a ride and didn’t hear the phone?  I wanted them to have every means possible to figure out those two teething toddlers.

I know my in-laws didn’t follow this “manual” exactly as I had it written.  I didn’t expect them to.  I’m sure there were fudges here and there with nap/bed time and meal time (hello, ice cream every night).  But, this was for my own peace of mind.  I knew that I had thoughtfully told them everything I could think of that they might need to know while I was away.

Just an example of what I left in the instructions.

Just an example of what I left in the instructions.

Do you leave an “instruction manual” when you go away? Is it as detailed as mine…maybe even more?  Or do you think I need to loosen up?  I’d love to hear your comments.

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18 Responses to An Instruction Manual for My Children

  1. Emily Southerland February 7, 2014 at 7:43 am #

    Love this, Katie! Toddlers definitely need a instruction manual when under someone else’s care. I know Reese will have to have one! Great post!

    • Katie February 9, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      Thank you, Emily! I’m so glad you understand where I’m coming from. Thank for commenting.

  2. Beth February 7, 2014 at 8:06 am #

    So glad I’m not the only one!! It defiantly gave me a piece of mind when leaving them.

    • Katie February 9, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      I’m so glad you understand!!! Thanks for commenting.

  3. andrea February 7, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    Whenever we leave the kids at home when we travel we leave a binder broken down by day, so they know what the kids are doing each day and what food options are for each meal, etc. We also leave all our insurance info, money, letters for the doctors, anything like that. So important!

    • Katie February 9, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

      Wow!! This is a great idea, Andrea. I always re-write mine, but a binder would be a much more efficient way. And I called the doctor to make sure that my in-laws could bring them in-just for precaution. Turns out we needed to have their names on a list. Glad I called!

  4. Jennifer Roden February 7, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    I have an 8-month old that I haven’t left with the inlaws yet, but before we had him, I totally left a ‘manual’ when people would watch our dog while we we were away!! I’m sure if I’m crazy enough to do that, I will definitely do it with my baby!

    • Katie February 9, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

      Jennifer-I get your crazy. 😉 We cut back our travel after we got our dog. haha

  5. Donna Parrack February 7, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Katie, I enjoyed reading your blog. Speaking from this grandmother’s point of view, I think the answer to your last question is, yes, you should loosen up a bit. Basic information is definitely needed, but we really don’t need all the details. We did rear our own children, after all. In the event that something has been left out of the basic information, all we would have to do is text or call. Now having said all this, I probably left a manual when I left my children with my parents or in-laws. 🙂

    • Katie February 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Donna!!! One of my concerns was that we woudn’t have our phones on us at all times–I didn’t even take mine into the park while we were there. We did check in and send pictures back & forth via text a few times a day.

  6. Niki February 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    This is a great idea! I’ve never left NPR for longer than a night or so, and I’ve been in the same city every time, but need to file this away for our anniversary trip!

    • Katie February 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

      Thanks, Niki!! Check out Andrea’s tip above for creating an away binder. Especially important for doctor information-including insurance info!! Have a fun anniversary trip.

  7. Erin February 7, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

    Loosen up. This aint their first rodeo. 🙂

    • Katie February 9, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

      Erin–you sound like my husband!!! 🙂

      But really, the 4 year old doesn’t get this “special” treatment anymore. Sometimes I don’t even pack her a suitcase-she just goes. I’ll probably get about 6-12 more months out of the manual, before it retires for good. And it’ll most likely be that long before anyone volunteers to watch them overnight again. haha

  8. christie elkins February 8, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

    I love leaving little notes for my parents, but they pretty much have it covered. I leave larger lists for the husband 😉 Great post!

    • Katie February 9, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks, Christie!!

      My mother-in-law actually left her own notes to me, so either she was completely making fun of me or she gets it. We only had one lost paci and sock for the entire time, so I’m considering that a win.

  9. Heather February 9, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    The younger the child, the more details I leave. Because it’s helpful if grandparents want it. Sometimes they don’t. It’s also useful when they say “Hey, your kid cried fourteen times at night” to be able to refer them to said schedule and ask “So, did you cut off the Scooby Doo marathon while it was still daylight like I suggested? No? I think I found your problem.”

    • Katie February 9, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

      I probably only have 6-12 more months left of the manual. Once the child can somewhat communicate other that scream, they are to fend for themselves. No, not really, but I do relax a little around 2-3. We just give them a list (verbal) of what we would prefer the child NOT eat or drink.

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