My husband and I have gotten really good at the man-to-man defense strategy of parenting. I usually take Ben (unless he's being a pain in the ass, then I tell Mike he's got Ben, but don't tell Mike that, I don't think he's figured it out yet) and Mike takes Matthew. This strategy usually works.
Every now and then it doesn't.
Last summer we were smack dab in the middle of Nowhere, PA at a Turnpike rest stop and I thought Mike had Matthew. He thought I had him. We literally lost him for nearly 10 minutes. They were the scariest minutes of my life. He's such a good kid, he ended up being right by the car, waiting for us, wondering where we'd went. Thank God. Ever since then we take our man-to-man defense very seriously. We can often be heard shouting out plays in public areas..."You go left! I'll take Ben, You've got Matthew, Go long, 23, 37, 49, HIKE!
This past weekend, however, we agreed to watch our neighbor's daughter. Olivia is the same age as Matthew, nearly 4, and is such a great kid. We had no qualms or fears about taking her for the morning. We decided to take the kids to the mall to get them out of the house, let them run around and play, get them some lunch and then head home.
My good god, that was hard. We were like the Steelers before the Superbowl - too cocky, too confident. We damn near lost one of the kids at least a dozen times. Picture us, standing in the middle of the food court looking frazzled, screaming "Where'd Olivia go?!" "Oh, there she is!" "Crap! Now where did Ben go?!" "Phew, there he is" They were determined to each go in a separate direction every time we blinked. Like the Steelers, we pulled it off in the end, coming home with exactly the number of kids we left with (which was our main, and only goal, really) but wow. A zone defense is definitely much harder than our man-to-man coverage.
How do you parents of 3+ kids do it? Do you use the buddy system? Are you just especially skilled at seeing all of them at once? Or do you do, like we did, just pray a lot and hope your headcount is right in the end?