Hey, we survived our weekend with nature. Enjoyed it, even. By the time we were working our way back, yesterday, I was starting to wonder if we could swap Chickadee for Swan, maybe, but on the whole I was very pleased with the girls’ behavior while we were on our adventure. (No, Chickadee didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just that kids are always better-behaved for someone else’s parents, right? Swan didn’t engage in any backtalk, nor did she ever roll her eyes at me that I noticed. Chickadee was her usual sassy self, and I couldn’t help wondering if she might be an angel for anyone other than us. I suspect she would.)
I was delighted to discover that camping with a trailer is exactly the right balance of nature and technology, for me. Toasting marshmallows over a fire = awesome, but attempting to cook a meal over a fire = tedious, therefore having the ability to plug in my crock pot inside the trailer and sit around a fire outside the trailer was lovely. [True story: Years ago, Otto and I went tent camping, and he purchased a fancy over-the-fire grill stand thingie from LL Bean we thought would make cooking really easy. We ended up cooking everything—EVERYTHING!—on sticks thrust into the fire because we never could position that stupid grill correctly. Bacon on a stick is, surprisingly, not as awesome as it sounds.]
Anyway, there was just one little problem this weekend.
It turns out that being out amongst other people for several days straight turns me into a SanctiMommy. (Oh, Liz. Did you have any idea how we would all embrace the term when you first wrong that post years ago?)
Look; I’m aware that I’m a homebody and I relish the solitude of my mostly home-based life. And ordinarily when I encounter poor behavior at Target or wherever I kind of roll my eyes and move on, because, you know, NOT MY PROBLEM. If your child is screaming his head off in the cereal aisle, I may find it annoying, or I may feel sorry for you, but by the time I’ve gone on to the pasta aisle, it’s a distant memory. To put it plainly, it never really becomes part of my relevant reality, because I get to LEAVE.
This weekend we stayed at a state park, and like most state parks, there’s a “quiet time” rule. That rules states that “quiet time” starts at 10:00. Any reasonable human recognizes that this is so that people can get some sleep, as tents and even campers tend not to have soundproof walls.
When 9:00 rolled around and it was getting dark and there were still children running amok and screaming their fool heads off, I started with the little comments to Otto.
“Really? Does that child look more than four or five to you? And he’s just running around, no parent in sight. In the dark.”
“Oh, this is precious. A lost child standing under our window SCREAMING HER HEAD OFF, and her mother, a class act, herself, screaming BACK rather than coming to get her and telling her to BE QUIET.”
“Hey, I have an idea! Let’s tell Swan and Chickadee to go outside and BOUNCE A BALL off of somebody else’s tent. WHILE SINGING! Everyone else here will LOVE US.”
I knew I was being holier-than-thou and intolerant. I knew I was being snarky. But then 10:00 rolled around and none of it stopped. Children were still screaming. Small people were actually skateboarding up and down the access road. In the dark. During “quiet time.” And YELLING while they did it. And where were their parents?
Oh. Well. Their parents were sitting outside talking, laughing and drinking. In the state park, which doesn’t allow alcohol.
You bet your ass I morphed into the most indignant Sanctimommy that ever there was.
Because THOSE PARENTS weren’t making their BRATS behave. THOSE PARENTS were breaking the rules, setting a poor example for their kids, and letting THOSE BRATS run around and ruin it for everyone else.
It got to be 10:30, that first night, and still children ran, whooped, and hollered just outside our trailer. I lay there and SEETHED over it, because we’d paid GOOD MONEY (oh yeah, all of $18 or something) to go ENJOY NATURE and now my trip was being ruined by BAD PARENTING.
Eventually I guess it stopped. I fell asleep. I woke up at some point in the night to a screaming child, but of the “I just woke up in a strange place and I’m small and terrified” variety, so although the jolt awake was disconcerting, it was hard to get angry about it.
Early the next morning the screaming didn’t resume until after I’d had a cup of coffee, and so was easier to stomach.
We spent our Saturday morning hiking; we came back and had lunch (and put dinner in the crock pot) and lounged around for a while, then took the girls to the beach. Otto and I read our books while the girls played in the sand and swam. Occasionally I’d look up in time to see a child or two walk directly across the girls’ towels. One time I watched an unattended toddler kick Chickadee’s flip-flops around for nearly a full minute before her mother retrieved her. And of course the giant buoy support with the DO NOT SIT ON BUOY LINE sign was crawling with kids who scaled it on their way to—surprise!—sit on the buoy line. At one point I may have turned to Otto and said, “Well, it’s official: We are the only parents on the entire beach who give a damn.”
That night we tuned the radio to static, and the white noise drowned out the late-night frolicking. Thank God. I slept a lot better than I had the night before.
Yesterday morning we had a nice breakfast, let the girls play while we packed up, and then we headed home. I made more than one comment about how much I was looking forward to sleeping in my own (quiet) bed, and as we unloaded and unpacked I tried to focus on all of the GOOD things about the trip—and there were many—and not let myself be annoyed about the other stuff.
Of course, within about five minutes of having both kids home together without any extra friends or parents, Monkey came running to tattle on his sister for being mean, and a few minutes after that, Chickadee burst into tears insisting that I always take his side no matter how mean he is to her, and I found myself engaged in a tiresome lecture about how two wrongs don’t make a right, and when I take his side it’s because he asks for help instead of resorting to mental torture, and which part of that was confusing to her?
So clearly I’ve really mastered this whole parenting thing, myself. Ahem.
And then I had to comfort myself with the knowledge that MY children may be petty and annoying and ill-mannered to each other, as well, but at least I don’t let them run around screaming when other people are trying to sleep. We prefer to keep our torment quiet, you see.
And yes, I asked Otto to put earplugs on the list for the next trip. I figure that’s easier than “a great big cup of STFU.”