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A Family Guide to Montreal's Sidewalk Sales
How to Survive Montreal's Sidewalk Sales with Kids
June 4, 2016 - Apart from festivals, summers in Montreal mean sidewalk sales...tons of them happening in various locations and almost every weekend. These sidewalk sales often have family and child-friendly areas offering various activities for the young ones. These activities are also usually free or charge a minimal fee. Sidewalk sales if one prepares properly can be a cheap activity for the family.
Okay, so you're probably thinking - why then in the world does one need a survival guide if they are such a perfect activity for families? For families with fairly well-behaved children, and maybe even families with multiple children who maybe have one hyper or spirited kid among easy going quiet ones, a sidewalk sale is probably a walk in the park for you folks. A few possible meltdowns here and there, not a big deal. For families like us with three strong-willed, hyper, and spirited children, however, a sidewalk sale can quickly become a full-out assault. When you have three kids with very strong personalities being bombarded with the latest gadgets, toys, snacks etc by vendors tempting them at every turn, the sidewalk sale can quickly become a war zone. When spirited kids have a meltdown, it is like no other. Once spirited children lose it, only a priest can exorcize those demons. Spirited kids are loads of fun but they can certainly break the hardest of folks. So for those of you parents nodding in agreement and know exactly what I am "talking" about, here's a survival guide on how to get through a sidewalk sale in Montreal with your buggers...erm, I mean lovely children...in one piece.
WHEN IN MONTREAL, TAKE THE PUBLIC TRANSIT!
It is very common in Montreal for streets to become pedestrian-only zones much to the annoyance of folks who drive. If you are visiting Montreal in the summer, forget about driving downtown. For those of you already living in Montreal, I am sure you already know what I am "talking" about. Feel free to skip to my next tip. For new visitors to this wonderful city, it is much easier to take the bus and/or metro. You don't have to worry about closed streets, construction zones (summer is another way of saying construction season in Montreal), detours (we have gotten lost more than a few times because of detours), and parking (finding a parking spot when we used to drive has at times taken us 20-30 minutes in the past). Trust me when I say taking the public transit is far less stressful. Driving around in the car, getting lost, and trying to find parking in crazy downtown Montreal while your kids' tempers are flaring and their patience dwindling is not good for your mental health. Trust me, I've been there.
SET SPENDING LIMITS AND STAND YOUR GROUND
You can be guaranteed that your kids are going to pass by vendors who are selling toys and games. Some of them might even call out to your "cute" children who at this point would be calm and content - let's face it, no vendor will approach a child who is in the midst of a breakdown. My suggestion before heading out to the sidewalk sale is discuss purchasing options with your young ones as best as you are able. Give them an allowance. Tell them they can only buy whatever they can afford. It will teach them the value of money. Hold on, I'm not saying it's going to work with all kids, let alone stubborn ones like ours. Seamus is only three so the concept of an allowance is lost on him. It doesn't matter. We attempted to reason with him as we did with the older two. There will be protests, lots of them...most especially if this is the first time you are giving them an allowance to spend. For the love of God, however, stand your ground! Sure, your kids might draw attention with their whining, crying, and screaming but if you bend now, those buggers will learn you are so bothered by their show of behaviour that you are willing to do anything to stop it. Don't. Who cares if anyone stares. These are your children, no one else's. In the end, your spirited ones will eventually listen to reason, or if all hell breaks loose, it may be time to head home. Just remember and I honestly say this from experience, it does get better the second time around...the cries, whines, and protests will be shorter provided you stand your ground.
AVOID CRAZY FUEL AKA JUNK FOOD
Hungry spirited children or spirited children hankering for a sugar fix are impossible to reason with. When kids are hungry, they will be cranky and will make you cranky. Sugar and junk food only worsen the situation. True, we've given our kids gelato when we have been out. We usually feed them the sugar (if we are going to) right before we leave. From experience, sugar serves to multiply our kids' spirited factor by 1000x. As much as possible, we pack refined sugar-free treats such as larabars, nuts, fruits, plantain chips, and seaweed. It deals with any sugar cravings without making them go into hyperdrive. These snacks come in handy given our kids have food restrictions plus they are convenient in situations when you may not be able to easily find something to eat or snack on, or you simply do not want to spend any money on eating out. There will be snacks, restaurants, and cafes around during a sidewalk sale in Montreal for those of you looking for some eating out options.
BE PREPARED TO DO SOME WALKING...BRING REINFORCEMENTS.
Our kids are 8 years old and younger. Walking for the young ones can get exhausting. We bring the baby backpack for Seamus (3 years old) or the stroller. If we know there will be tons of walking, we bring both so Kiarra (5 years old) can use the stroller if she has to. If I know the sidewalk sale is not particularly a large one and we don't intend on staying during nap time, we don't bother with the stroller (it can become a pain bringing it into public transit). Either way, just be sure your kids can handle tons of walking for a specified amount of time, and in the case you are doubtful, bring reinforcements. I've had to carry Seamus or Kiarra in the past and at the end of it all, it was not good for my lower back...mix that in with a kid having a tantrum or flailing about like a gremlin and you will really be in for it. I find it always helpful to place Seamus in the stroller when he is upset for whatever reason and handing him his blankie for reassurance. Strollers are also great if you intend on staying for more than a few hours and kids will likely need a nap or downtime. The stroller in these cases was always a godsend.
Planning to attend a sidewalk sale in Montreal? Hope these tips help out parents with strong-willed kids or parents who want to make their visit to sidewalk sales go smoothly as possible. I am no expert. These tips came from moments of failure...several of them. I am sure most will agree with me that as parents of young children, our lives are a series of unpredictable moments - some surprising, some downright shocking, some comedic, some not so much. You can really only prepare so much. The rest of the time, it's a matter of survival. If you ever bump into us at an event in Montreal, you will more than likely notice us - we are the flustered parents of one, maybe two, at times three outspoken kids - all likely competing for our attention, talking at the same time, or doing something they shouldn't be doing. Come by and say hello - we welcome the respite. If you ever bump into me or Randy at an event and notice that we are all by our lonesome, we are likely enjoying date night. Come by and give us a high five.
For a list of Montreal's sidewalk sales this summer (oh c'mon, you have to attend just one!), visit this link.
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