Oh, hello there loyal Momfessional readers. Not sure if there are any of you left, after I virtually abandoned you over the last several months, but hello anyway. I’ll spare you the “I’ve been busy” excuse and just say that it is nice to be back.
So this week, we took our first camping trip of the summer. I had planned it out months ago; we would be going to somewhere more remote than we had in previous years (well, as remote as you can get while car camping), about 3 1/2 hours from home. I was excited to go somewhere less populated and experience more “nature” and I was certain the kids would be blown away by all of the hiking, fishing, canoeing, etc. that I planned to pack into our three days away.
But, things didn’t quite end up the way I had envisioned.
It started when we were unpacking our car, after driving the 4+ hours it ended up taking to get to the site. And it went something like this.
Me: Ummm, hey dear husband, where’s the other bin with our camping stuff?
Him: What bin?
Me: The bin with our equipment in it. Like ALL of our cooking stuff, our flashlights, matches, propane, tools, etc. The one that we can’t do much without? OMG WHERE IS IT? SHIT!!
I moaned, sat down, and put my head in my hands. I had packed for days, written lists, pre-made all of our meals. And now we were four hours from home, with frozen food but no way to cook it. And no flashlight. And no way to start a fire. And no rope to hang the tarps with for the rain that was supposed to fall while we were sleeping.
I guess you could say I over-reacted a bit. I blamed my husband. I growled at the kids. I might have cried a bit. Then, we hopped back into the car and drove off, searching for some sort of camp store (which we did find, and ended up spending $100 in, just buying essentials).
And that’s pretty much how the camping trip went. My husband and I bickered, our kids misbehaved and were bored, we didn’t sleep, and a massive thunderstorm came through exactly while we were trying to pack up to leave. Thankfully there were some highlights: the surroundings were beautiful, the kids loved the beach, and they were obsessed with the park badges that they got to earn for doing things like keeping the campsite clean. But on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it a solid 5.
The funny thing is, while I was editing and later posting our pictures on Facebook, I realized that, to an outsider, it must look like we had a perfectly idyllic trip. There we were: smiling, laughing, hiking, eating s’mores, and building sand castles like the “normal” family I had secretly wished we could be while we were in the midst of our dysfunction. I felt like a fraud.
And then I realized, maybe everyone else is a fraud too.
How many people do you know that actually tell the truth about their family trips? We don’t hear the stories about how mommy yelled at little Jimmy when he stepped in poop on the trip to the farm. Or how daddy got lost on the way to the beach and mommy told him she knew she shouldn’t have let him drive because he always gets lost. Or how the kids woke up every hour screaming because they weren’t used to sleeping in a completely dark hotel room, and mommy and daddy lost their patience around 4am and yelled, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHUT UP!
No one talks about that because those things aren’t supposed to happen. And we feel guilty that they do. We feel like terrible parents, jealous of those other parents who seem to have perfect kids and amazing trips filled with laughter and good times, while we pray for night time to come so that we can break out the wine and have some peace before collapsing into an exhausted heap.
Yet, here we all are, likely going through similar experiences, but only telling the “good” side of things. It’s wrong. We should be more honest about life as parents. It isn’t always perfect. Scratch that; it’s NEVER perfect. We shouldn’t strive for perfection and we shouldn’t pretend we have it.
The other day, a colleague asked me how my vacation was, and I replied immediately, “It was great!”. And then I stopped. “Actually, you know what? It wasn’t great. It was average at best. My kids were nuts, we forgot a bunch of supplies (which I blamed my husband for), and we got poured on. We’ve had better trips. But we did have a nice hike and the park was beautiful.” Perhaps it was too much information for a pre-9am water cooler chat, but it made me feel better.
So the next time you’re asked to recount your latest family trip, do me and all of us imperfect parents out there a favour: throw in a story or two about something that didn’t go according to plan. I promise we won’t judge.