Camping with toddlers is the worst hell imaginable.
#1. Death is everywhere.
Did you know that children don’t intrinsically know not to fall face first into the fire pit? Rocks, sticks, stinging nettle, poisonous berries, rattlesnakes and fire ants. Most of my day is spent yelling No. Not the… No. Not the. .No! Not the! Fuck. Not that!
#2. Childhood Regression.
When going to the outhouse I have the insatiable need to look down the hole before I sit down. The compulsion is not alterable as when I was kid some asshole told me that that’s where moms throw their babies if they don’t want them anymore and I was also told that’s where the perverts hang out to watch you pee. So, the child in me has no option but to check for dangers. And of course, it’s a disgusting pile of shit on top of shit.
#3. You have to be with your kids all day.
For a working mom, this is a shocker and made me realize that I don’t really know how to parent. I mean I know how to do it before and after work but aaaallllll daayyyyyyy loooongggggg?
#4 Sleeping in a tent.
I guess I’m old now because I woke up and had to crawl for 10 min before the back spasms stopped.
To me, camping in the summer is what the end of civilization could look like. When we are partitioned in small plots by the rebels or trapped in holding pens by the militia. My first impulse is to barricade my small plot of land.
I string a hammock to show our “property line.” I park the van to block off sightlines to the to the neighbours picnic table and the tent is placed directly in front of the other campers tent making it obscured. When we do leave our compound we notice competitively, who is closer to running water, who has access to power and the poor shmo’s who have to sleep on rocks. This last one helps the fact that we are plagued by the sound of our neighbors New Metal fetish.
Something about nature makes children access their wild side. You, like I, may have thought this would be ideal for their emotional growth. No. no. it’s not. The outdoors turn sticks into guns, sand into ammo and the food into rocket launchers. We are not a yelling family, but when camping we have found ourselves screaming at our children and this only fuels the animal in them. Case in point: my three-year-old was rocking in the hammock with me, pointed his sandy little penis in my face, peed and then laughed maniacally.
The only silver lining I’ve found so far is that everyone else freaking out at their kids as loud as we are freaking at ours. It’s like nature is the place you go to if you ever want to drop the façade that you are a good parent. I’m surrounded by hateful families screaming “Damien, no more chips GODDAMED IT!” “Melanie, no, you can’t drive the Sea-Do!” I can’t judge these motherfuckers anymore because they’ve just heard me yelling “He’s got shit on his hands, get him out of the tent!”
I’m feeling better now that I’ve written this. I’m not sure if it’s because I got it off my chest or the pills just kicked in.
Ps. It’s day 1.
He keeps throwing his carrots on the ground.
“Don’t. Don’t do that.”
“The ants will come.”
“Because they will want to eat the carrots.”
“It’s not good to have ants around the picnic table. Or wasps.”
“Because the ants will bite you.”
“No they won’t.”
“Then the wasps will bite you too and their stings are like fire.”
“Because you are a fucking shithead” (I say in my head)…Because…DON”T THROW ANYMORE CARROTS.”
“If you’re a good boy for 5 minutes I’ll give you 5 smarties”
He throws a carrot again.
“Ok, one more chance and then no smarties…”
He throws a carrot again.
I’ve become the people I judge. Doling out ultimatums and gender-based shame tactics.
And for the first time in my parenting career I think “I’m AT THE END OF MY ROPE.”
I cannot take one more dirty mouth on my tit. One more wack to the shins. One more hair pull. I want to leave. And I imagine doing it; just getting up from the picnic table and running up the hill behind us. Scrambling over bushes and running as fast as my flip flops can take me until I can’t see them anymore, and then hiding behind a big tree, praying they’ve lost my scent.
We drive to another beach to get a change of scenery. The baby pukes popcorn kernels all over himself and when we get there the toddler won’t walk because one of his shoes is wet- and wearing something with a wet feeling is not an option for him. Except for his wet bathing suit, which he’s been sleeping in for 3 nights. I try to explain to him the irony of his logic but he’s 3 so….my husband carries him down to the beach while I cry in the van.
We drop the kids off at Grandpas house and go see Ghostbusters in an air-conditioned theatre.
*Mother Macgyver genius
And then we go to Trader Joe’s to stock up on happiness snacks. This was a photoshoot we did called Stars Are Just Like Us.
I wish I was a better mom.
I wish I still liked camping.
I wish I had the stamina it takes to raise children…The counting down the hours till bedtime…The sneaking into the bushes for a smoke…My husband cracking his first beer at noon.
I have never been so tired in my life.
I look at my child’s dirty little face and long for the moment when you see their madness as simply a child being a child and your heart warms at the ridiculousness of these little miracles, but it doesn’t come. Instead, I think…I have no maternal instinct for you right now. I wouldn’t want you to die or feel any pain but I could really care less if I saw you tomorrow. I want to go back to work. 60 hours a week. Fine. No overtime. Fine. I’d be happy to be demoted to intern.
I guess some parents just aren’t meant to raise children.
That’s a joke. I hope you know that was kind of a joke. One more day left. Sit tight. Don’t run up that embankment. They are strong little kids so they’ll probably be able to sniff your breast milk out like hounds.
I know next summer will be easier.
I know I’ll look back on this time and smile.
And I know that I can’t imagine that right now.
“Mama, mama I found a bunny!” I hear him calling me from the woods. “And it’s letting me pet it!”
“Oh wow. A bunny. That’s so cool! Show it to me!”