Camping with small children is a whole different level of hell.
But it does make me feel much better about yelling at my kids.
The Most Amazing Man and I take the kidlets camping. Not ‘real’ camping, out in the bush with no facilities or toilets. We totally get all weak about it and book ourselves in for one (torturous) night at a holiday park, complete with a spiralling blue water slide that drops into a crystal clear swimming pool.
Thank god for that pool. It was hot and dusty and putting the tent up in thirty five degree heat required an extreme amount of patience and teeth-gritting and deep breaths. By the time that was done, the only thing we wanted to do was get in the water.
My children are fish, water babies who are so adept at floating and twisting beneath the surface that their self-confidence scares me.
Hot days lead to inevitable whinging. I get it. I’m hot and tired and cranky, too. So I do my best to keep my temper, not to yell or snap when I feel just as sh*t as they do. But my the elastic string of my patience is only so long and there’s only so much I can take.
My patience string twangs and snaps at about eight o’clock that night. The Chop and the Bump are so tired- they are clumsy and cranky. Their eyes appear to be bulging over the thin blue smudges of exhaustion beneath them.
But sleeping in a tent, in your own candy-coloured sleeping bag, is evidently very exciting. The Bump keeps the Chop awake. The Chop whinges. The Bump cries. I find myself making hollow, empty threats; taking advantage of their childish naivety. “We will pack up this tent and take you both home right now!” “There will be no swimming for anyone tomorrow!”
Idle threats. But at six and four years old, they don’t know that yet. They watched us set up the tent in an hour- in their little minds, we could pull it down just as easily.
Yelling at your kids in a caravan park is slightly different to yelling at them at home. At first, the guilt of it is intensified. Everyone is in such close quarters- tents and vans mere metres away from one another, very few solid walls to hold the irrational fights that happen in all families. You realise that people may just hear you, and what on earth would they think?
Then the twilight deepens. There are kookaburras laughing, cicadas singing in high-pitched tones. As it darkens, moths and possums come out to roam amongst camping lamps and open fires. And all around the caravan park is the reassuring chorus of other parents just like you, yelling at their kids to get to bed and stay there or we are all packing up and going home!
Parenting can be such a closed-off thing. It’s lovely to know that there are other people out there who are f*cking it up just as much as me.