It’s a late Mardi Gras this year, and I am ready. Last year, I finally cracked the code of how to have fun at parades, and the secret – I hope you’re all ready for this revelation – is beer. It was a rainy, gross Sunday last year as Thoth rolled past, and I was cold and wet and cranky – but after just one beer, I made friends along the route, and after three, I was running after the Ben Franklin majorettes as they danced past screaming at them that I was the class of ’98 and was so excited that we had majorettes now. (I gave the last three beers from my six-pack away because I realized I was on a path that would leave me hungover by 8 p.m., which is never a fun place to be.)

Having passed along that useful advice, I thought I’d revisit my tips for Carnival with kids in tow: 

1. This is not so much a tip as a straight-up product endorsement. Buy this. I love the Marie Kondo craze that’s sweeping the country, and I aspire to minimalism, but there is not a single parade stuffed animal that doesn’t “spark joy” in my kids, and so I like to use these to at least contain the clutter in something that can double as a seat.

2. Instead of bagged ice to cool off your drinks in your ice chest, use soft ice packs or bags of frozen peas. If no one gets hit in the face with a bag of beads or a trombone, you’ll still have cold drinks. If someone does get injured (and someone will almost certainly get injured), you’ll have an ice pack at the ready.

3. If you have a young kid who is prone to wandering, write your cell phone number on his/her arm in Sharpie. Ruby knows my number now, and Georgia is not prone to wandering, but this would’ve saved me a lot of anxiety if I’d thought to do it sooner with Ruby. 

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m definitely not a huge prude, but the only ages I’d feel comfortable taking a kid to Krewe du Vieux would be infant-in-arms or older teenager – so we avoid that parade or get a sitter for the kids. Beyond that, I’m pretty laid back about the stuff my kids might see along the more family-friendly parade routes: people smoking pot, doing kegstands, making out, or screaming the occasional obscenity are all more or less expected, and we just move along and/or try to mind our own business.

5. Relax your standards. I wrote about this in 2016, and it’s true every year — during Carnival time, my kids are filthy, fueled mostly by sugar, and never get enough sleep. Homework is neglected, and I let my kids pass out in the car after Muses and carry them inside and tuck them in with unbrushed teeth and glitter, face paint, and candy apple smeared across their sweet sleeping faces. My basic mantra during Carnival is: “King Cake is breakfast. Dirt builds their immune systems. Reading logs are a sham.”
So now you’re ready, too! The only thing that concerns me at the moment is the terrible Saturday forecast, with an 80 percent chance of rain during the day and a 40 percent chance at night. But oh, well. As long as I remember to bring along a beer or two, I know I will manage to have a great time. 

Happy Carnival, y’all!