Nature makes me Sanctimommious

By Mir
June 1, 2009

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.”


  1. The Other Leanne

    Oh yeah. Earplugs. Add that to the spreadsheet.

  2. Em

    Where did I hear once that the perfect goody bag for a children’s party is earplugs and nips for the parents? Maybe you could make a camping survival kit made of the same goodness. Put it next to the first aid kit. Mark it “In Case of Emergency”

  3. Randi

    LMAO – nice. Apparently that whole “takes a village to raise a child” thing does not count when camping.

  4. diane

    I belong to the petty revenge camp. I’m a notoriously early riser…is there an *end* time on that quiet time rule? I’d be tempted to get up at, oh, say 5:30 (it’s already light by then) and noisily set about making breakfast, banging dishes, pans, playing the radio loudly…

    If I had kids, I’d drag them out of bed, too, and let them whine to their hearts’ content (preferably at the top of their lungs, whilst banging on one of the pans while waiting for breakfast).

    The truth is that we can only change the behavior in our own circles, and hope that everyone else learns from our good example. While we may not get any sleep, at least we’ll feel good for taking the high road.

  5. Megan

    Yup – this is why I really hate crowded camp sites and am willing to drive/hike the extra mile to get away from all them thar people. Because nothing makes me more inhumane than a big dose of humanity!

    That said, I spent a happy hour one morning seething over the cheekiest, rudest, NOISIEST little squirrel I’ve ever encountered in my life. There’s a squirrel parent out there somewhere who SERIOUSLY fell down on the job. Little twerp stole my granola bar…

  6. Katie in MA

    Easier, but not necessarily quite as therapeutic. I could handle the non-parenting during the day by, well, interfering when necessary. But I don’t think I could handle the whole not-sleeping bit. I might, in fact, have to be a day-camper. Heh, I was trying to remember how I handled the whole camping-with-friends bit when I was younger, but then I remembered. We were the ones who stayed up whispering all night in our tents! Something tells me that won’t work as an adult.

  7. Jen

    2 things i always have with me on a camping trip:

    1) a fan for white noise (which you accomplished with the static on the radio) … actually, our new popup has a heater/ac unit, so we just use the fan on that during the night!

    2) a sleep mask… because gosh darn it, the sun comes up at 5:30 and i reallllly don’t wanna get out of bed before 7:30ish on a vacation/camping trip! and canvas does not block those rays very well!

  8. kakaty

    “as tents and even campers tend not to have soundproof walls” that right there is why I’m not so much the ‘camping type’ and much more the ‘5-star timeshare type’. I’ve been to one too many campgrounds (AKA cheap hotel without walls) to every want to camp again. Camping in the wilderness is whole other story, though…

  9. Half Assed Kitchen

    Reason #352 why I don’t especially like camping.

  10. Jo

    Wow, makes me totally appreciate the family-run campsite we go to every year. The staff actually goes around reminding the night owls to be quiet if they are still up playing cards after 10. I know cuz we’ve been on the receiving end being shushed a couple of times–but we appreciate the enforcement. Ear plugs sounds like a good solution if there are no professional shushers on hand.

  11. Jess

    Oh, dear. We are going to a state park on Sunday, and now I know exactly what I’m going to turn into. I am, just for the record, more of a wuss than you. My camping must involve a CABIN. ;)

  12. erin

    As someone who spent her childhood camping (pop-up trailer, tents, etc), I am enjoying these camping stories. My parents are still so into camping that they recently purchased their own full-size trailer. It’s amazing how much better it is when there’s air conditioning and a DVD player. Not to mention a fridge and your own (tiny) bathroom/shower – always better than the public restrooms. Makes it more industrial outing than camping, but whatever.

    No guarantee and it is more expensive, but you may have better luck w/noise, etc. if you try private campgrounds or KOAs. Most of those places tend to do a better job enforcing their rules.

  13. Tracy

    I think I might have visited the site “host/hostess” and complained. I’m that way ESPECIALLY when I don’t have my sleep. It comes naturally, I’m afraid. One other thing that you didn’t experience and you would be grateful for is a barking dog. Just as bad as screaming kids because they bark ALL night long. GRRrrrr!

  14. Chuck

    I love that STFU picture of the smiling soldier. If I ever get annoyed at work I pull up a copy of it and that makes me laugh enough to ignore whatever the original problem was and get back to work.

  15. Karen

    I have done a lot of camping in my life (not really by choice) and also a lot of summers on a boat in various marinas – which have a similar vibe. I think the private parks are better controlled than their public counterparts. They have security telling the violators shut their kids up or get kicked out. And if no alcohol is allowed, then they can be kicked out for drinking. I have seen people being forced to break up camp and pull out at midnight for rule infractions.

    Maybe check out a private campground next time. Their might be a difference.

  16. Groovecatmom

    My idea of camping is the Holiday Inn.

  17. Tammy

    Glad to hear that you had a good time despite the noise. I agree, private campgrounds are great. A little more $$, but worth it, IMHO.

    Does Otto have the next excursion planned already?

  18. mama speak

    This one time at band camp…. oh yeah, different blog

  19. mama speak

    Seriously, one time when I was 14 or so, my girl scout troop went to Disneyland & stayed at the campsites there, Vacationland! (You can’t make this stuff up.) The “campsite” consisted of a field of grass. Our immediate neighbors where of the “white trash” variety. I know this because “Dad” walked around half the night cussing (loudly, of course) in his cowboy hat, tighty whiteys and (wait for it…) yes, his cowboy boots. Quite an education for us 14YOs. Finally, some poor traveler from the UK couldn’t take it anymore & told him to shut up (in a very important sounding English accent). When we laughed loudly from our tents and other camper cheered & applauded, I guess he figured he was outnumbered & drank quietly after that.
    Now THAT’s a camping w/the public story!

  20. MomCat

    Here’s a simple fix – Otto needs to buy some forested land, on a lake, for camping!

    Personally, I often opt for the big, steaming cup of STFU.

  21. Norma

    Gah! I read the whole post and then I have no idea what STFU means!

  22. Scottsdale Girl

    I would have strangled some children, jes sayin.

  23. LiteralDan

    Let’s not exaggerate– bacon on a stick is still bacon, so I think we all know it’s gotta be pretty good.

    Did you just ship back the grill and get a bunch of totebags or something instead? They’d be good for carrying more bacon. Mmmmm… I think I need to go have a second lunch.

  24. Lisa

    Thank you for that kind reminder on why I hate camping.

  25. BethRD

    A friend of mine went camping in his own yard with his kids this weekend and was complaining about the barking dogs, chirping birds, etc., that kept him awake until 7 AM, when it began to rain, dousing him and his daughter inside his unsealed tent. I reminded him that this is why they invented walls.

  26. Lulu

    Norma, google: “define: STFU”
    and here it doesn’t stand for “Southern Tenant Farmers Union”

  27. lonek8

    there is no rule that you have to be a perfect parent to point out when others are worse at it. there is nothing worse than parents who will not even attempt to control their children in public. especially because these people are also usually the least tolerant of anyone else interrupting their fun. And I deeply sypathize with the situation you were in – our backyard neighbors routinely throw loud outdoor parties that last past 11pm and their 3 year old is running around screaming the whole time. But they also never bothered to put a railing on their deck and she falls off at least once a day. It makes me feel so “sanctimommious” to criticize them, but really. Bad parenting is bad parenting and I don’t have to be perfect to admit it.

  28. David

    Wait, what happened to the whole ‘watching them put trucks together’ thing? Oh, silly me. That’ll be Monkey’s trip, right? *grins and ducks quickly*

  29. Cele

    This is why I NEVER go to Pizza Parlours.

  30. Flea

    Fontana Dam, NC. Much quieter. And the firefly display is to die for!

  31. elizabeth

    Give it a week or teo and you’ll all be giggling about it… remember those terrible kids that got mama’s goat? We camped when I eas a kid, in tents and now those are the funniest memories. People say we’re making them up, but it would be too difficult for the seven of us to collaborate that well.

  32. Aimee

    I agree with Elizabeth — you gotta find the funny in it to survive something like that. I find that can work with badly behaved adults, too.

  33. Amy-Go

    Since Sammy managed to get away from me and behaved in a manner which required lifeguard intervention THREE TIMES this weekend – resulting in the pool supervisor warning us that he would be banned from swimming if I could not control him – I will be the one to represent Crappy Parents Everywhere. “I’m sorry!” she said in a squeaky voice, and slunk quietly away in shame…

    In my own defense, a minor amount of neglect is the only way I can parent Sammy and STAY SANE!

  34. MaryP

    This is why I no longer camp. We tried again two years ago, after a gap of about eight, and people are still just as inconsiderate about lights-out and quiet time (which in our closest park doesn’t start until ELEVEN, gawdelpme), that we ended up leaving a day early. We left EARLY, and we left LOUD. Call me petty, but it felt goooood when I heard someone from the worst-offending campsite moan, “Oh, GOD, why can’t they shut the f%$ up?” I figure we were making him prematurely aware of his hangover.

  35. moosh

    We camped in the National Forest last Wednesday and no one else was there. It was wonderful. I have camped in a State Park and heard my neighbors having sex all night. I don’t know which is worst moans or screaming kids.

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