Excerpted from the never-to-be-released book, “I Thought You Packed The Pacifier! And Where The Hell Is The Butt Paste!: A father’s guide to having it all while smelling slightly of soured milk.”
CHAPTER 10: When Tailgating and Naps Collide.
A quick checklist to what you need before you pregame feed
Are you ready for some Mountaineer football!!! Great! Now, are you ready for some Mountaineer football, with the kids!!! That’s what I thought. But time out, pops. Put away the challenge flag! Tailgating with the lil ones can be more fun than a Robin Williams standup. You just have to plan ahead. And I ain’t talkin’ days ahead. Weeks ahead! But that’s no sweat at t’al. You’ve already spent most of early August planning your tailgate menus (turkey for Georgia Southern game, chili for Western Carolina) and you started marinating steaks for Homecoming two weeks ago (secret ingredients – pepper jack cheese and beer).
Just add these five easy steps to your personal 24-item Tailgate “Honey Will” List (No. 15. pre-order 25,000 BTU heater for playoffs), and the kids will blend in to the scenery as naturally as a ‘Where’s Ann Arbor’ t-shirt.
No. 1 – Kill ’em with cuteness
Sure, you have your favorite gameday t-shirts. You think they’re cool, but like your average 2007 pop song, they all blend together and no one can tell them apart. (Wow, look! Rob’s wearing the 2001 Black Saturday t-shirt, not to be mistaken for the similar yet different cut 2003 shirt! Sweet!)
But when it comes to dressing the kids, you’re talking 70s rock. You want them to stand out. Nothing attracts more “ooos” and “ahhs” than a tyke in team colors. The younger the plahya in the jersey, the more pats on the back for “raising that Mountaineer right!” And everyone – I mean EVERYONE – loves seeing a sweet little girl in a cheerleading outfit, especially other cheerleaders. (No dear, let me. I’ll walk around the parking lot with her. *wink* *wink*)
Coordinating such outfits isn’t easy. Buy too early and the kids will have outgrown them. (They’ll look like tiny offensive linemen in shrunken uniforms). Buy too late and you’re stuck in line behind 50 hyper college students the day before kickoff, holding a baby carrier in one hand and attempting to corral with the other a 2-year-old toddler throwing ASU golf balls across the Bookstore foyer (true story).
The perfect time is about two weeks out from the game. Get yourself to a store and find that outfit. If not a jersey or cheerleading outfit, look for:
– T-shirts, especially ones that say “Lil Mountaineer” or “I’ve been cheering for my Mountaineers since the day I was born.”
– Simple gold or black onesies.
– Anything with a Block A you can fit around their neck, like a bib or Mardi Gras football necklace (true story).
What to avoid:
– T-shirts with alcohol-related slogans. (A “Head for the Mountains of Boone” Busch knockoff is cool, but not on a 13-month old. The glares aren’t worth it)
– Anything with even a smidgen of Carolina Blue. (Except diapers or pullups, since they’re made for collecting piss and poop, much like Keenan Stadium).
No. 2 – Prepare your occupation force
Tailgating for adults consists primarily of schmoozing, drinking, eating, socializing, talking and all other types of adult-“ing.” And your kids ain’t gonna have none of it.
Take for example the little drummer boy. He loves the Marching Mountaineers, and his sly mom and dad were prepared to take full advantage of that affection. They got a toy drum, some velcro, string, duck tape and BAM! Instant marching snare! This guaranteed at least one hour of occupation as he made his way with the band, banging to their beat.
The possibilities are endless. I always bring along a bag of goodies for my Gabby. Miniature football. Dora the Explorer Doll. Some books. Pavement chalk. Aw yes, pavement chalk. Nothing can fill those fourth-quarter garbage time minutes of a blowout like pavement chalk art in the stands. Just make sure they don’t draw on fellow fans (true story).
No. 3 – Do you have a kid’s menu
Roughly 80 percent of the average tailgate menu is indigestible to anyone under 4 (or those over 50 with heart conditions). This is due primarily to the ever-popular ‘secret’ ingredients. Crap would-be Emerils put in their food to set it apart from all the other would-be Emerils grilling across the lot. Peppers smuggled from Mexico. Extracts from the ABC store. Marinades with a chemical composition more complex than adamantium. All are good (?) for you, but bad, bad, bad for junior. And attempting to wipe off all those spices or carving out teeny-weeny bites for timy tummies Just Ain’t. Right. You gotta plan ahead.
When packing my cooler, I throw in a few boxes of raisins, some nabs, lunch meat and fruit. There’s also the trusty bottle of Juicy Juice or Hawaiian Punch. No soda, cause a one-year-old plus Pepsi equals baby Flash on crack (true story).
No. 4 – ‘Duck’ing the crowd
Kids are mobile. They’re solar panels on legs. They longer you make them sit, the more spring is loaded in their step. So you gotta have your road trip planned. (You’ll be thankful you did. More on that later)
When tailgating at Appalachian, you can always:
– Feed the Ducks. A popular pasttime, no doubt. Just make sure you bring some bread or crackers. I took Gabby to feed the ducks after one Appalachian game, only to see that the quakers had no interest. Too full. Much. Too. Full. But the fishies were ALL about it, which was just as fun. One handful of crumbs brought a feeding frenzy so intense it’d make a pirahna proud!
– Kids Zone. Never has air been so fun! It’s like a scene from Forrest Gump. You got your airwalk, your airslide, your airjump, your airjumpandslide. Whoever thought of adding a kidzone during a tailgate is genius. (Too bad it so very far, far away)
– Follow the band. Another genius move. As I eluded to earlier, prior to kickoff the Appalachian marching band tours the tailgate areas stopping, playing and marching on. It’s like a Grateful Dead tour for kids, only more coherent.
– Find some grass. No, not the Grateful Dead kind. I’m talking greenspace. Open land. Non-concrete covered earth. My tailgate crew annually sets up shop right in a dorm’s front yard. We got grass to the left of us, grass to the right of us, and grass all behind us. (Sounds like ASU, huh?) We don’t have to worry about the youngins running wild, falling and busting a knee cap in the parking lot. Instead we worry about Gabby taking down the Drummer Boy in a two-out-of-three-falls wrestling match for the Boone Toddler Title. (She finished him off with the Cobra Clutch, just like daddy taught her.)
Be creative! Prepare your own Family Circus adventure! Pretend Raley lot is the zoo! (Not hard) Greenwood is the Land of Misfit Toys! (Again, not hard) And East Hall is … well .. East Hall!
Keep in mind – and this is really key here – the more active you keep the kids before the game, the more likely they are to be tuckered out during the game. Which leads to step 5:
No. 5 – Blankets, bed and pillows, Oh my!
Planned just right, the perfect kiddie tailgate action plan will lead to a pleasing kiddie gametime inaction. They’re so wore out from heat and treats that sitting still for three hours isn’t just possible, but welcome. Ya just got to make them comfortable. This may mean becoming a human stadium seat or having your lap become a pillow. But careful! Think before you jump up to react to that touchdown! (true story)
And remember, you’re at the game, you’re babys’ are at your side, and all is right with the world. Isn’t that what gameday is all about? (Not really, but the wife read this so gotta type sweet)