Tuesday, August 13, 2013

lessons from the great outdoors

We went camping again this past weekend, at Ionia State Recreation Area.  We've had this trip on our calendar, and the site reserved and paid for, since back in May.  It's a good thing too, because if we had been able to back out at the last minute, we may very well have done so.  We have a lot going on right now, with a project we've taken on as a family, and it wasn't easy to get ready for this trip.

I won't say it was always pretty, but we made it.  The kids love camping, and I know it's important for us to take time away from the daily grind once in a while.  But still, it's a lot of work.  When we camped for a weekend back in June, we remembered how hard it can be with a crawling baby.  There's not much for her to do, except get really dirty and try to hurt herself, so we ended up just holding her 24/7.  (As opposed to the 22/7 that would be the usual average at home.)  I really thought that she'd be walking by this trip, but she's still very firmly a crawler.  And not a patient one.  Turns out she spends a lot of her time wanting to be somewhere and/or do something that no one is accommodating, and she lets us know about it.  Loudly.

On Saturday morning, Mr. Smith (Do I really always call him that on here?  I guess I do.  I think I'm too tired to keep up that charade any longer.  I suppose I had a reason for doing it at some point but my priorities have shifted.  One day I'm going to start talking about Ryan and y'all are going to wonder who this Ryan guy is.  That's my husband.  There, I said it.) So anyway, Ryan took the boys down to the lake to fish.  Genevieve and I stayed back at the site to clean up a little, and then I walked her in the stroller to where they were.  We were planning on going swimming after lunch, and after a bit of fishing some of the younger boys were ready to get going.  I said I'd walk back with them, and just meet the rest of them back at the site.

So I walked back with my four kids age 7 and under.  No biggie, I do this all the time.  Got them lunch.  Got them bathing suits.  Got them sunscreen.  Super woman, I know.  Still no big guys though.  We waited.  Genevieve continued her scream/squeal-when-I-have-a-need-that's-not-being-filled-immediately routine.  No big white van pulling back up to the campsite.  The boys started breaking down because they were hot and the beach was calling them, and they were starting to not believe me that they'd be back any minute.

That's when I saw it.  Our "neighbors" were packing up their site, on Saturday late-morning, only they weren't packing to go home.  They threw their air mattress up on top of their car, still inflated, and drove deeper into the campground, clearly moving to another site.  Why would they do this?  Well, it only took me about 3 seconds to figure out why: Obviously we are way too loud and our baby cries too much, that's why.  They couldn't stand being our neighbors.  It was like someone had punched me in the gut.  I could just picture this couple going up to the front office and explaining that they could not stay on their site for one more hour because of the obnoxious family next to them, and I was totally embarrassed.  I called Ryan on his cell, "Are you guys planning on coming back here sometime today?" (When I'm upset it's hard for me to contain the snotty.)  My innocent husband, "Yeah, we're headed to the van now.  Everything okay?"  And I think I told him to hurry up before I hung up on him.  Yup, I'm that nice when I'm flustered.

They got back and rushed through eating and changing, while I huffed and puffed and glared.  I explained what was bothering me to Ryan, how I couldn't believe we were THOSE campers, and maybe we just shouldn't be camping with a baby, and why does she keep screaming like that.  Etc.  My dear, patient husband just looked at me, and listened, and got ready to go.

We got to the beach and I started to relax.  The weather was beautiful and the kids love, love, love the water.  Eventually he came over to me and said, "I've been thinking.  When I booked this trip, a lot of the sites were only available for one of the two weekend nights.  It could be that they couldn't get that site two nights in a row, and just had to move to one that's available tonight."  Well sure, I could see his point, but no, they moved because we are the most barbaric and repulsively out of control family they had ever encountered and they couldn't bear to be near us any longer.  (Yes, it really might have grown to that caliber in my mind.  I struggle with pride.)  He was just trying to make me feel better.

By that afternoon, a motor home had come in and we had new neighbors.  Okay, so the site was booked for that night.  Still...

My sister and her family had come in for the day, and we went to do some more fishing after dinner.  I had been holding Genevieve for most of the evening, and at one point Ryan took her from me, and brought her back up to the dock where the boys were.  My sister and I were entertaining some of the other little ones near our vehicles.  When we were all back together again, he came and whispered to me, "You know our old neighbors?  They were up there fishing too.  I was trying to help one of the boys, and the woman saw me struggling with Genevieve.  She offered to hold her for me, and went on about what a cute baby she is.  I'm pretty sure they don't hate us."


I processed this bit of information, and as the night went on I realized that we really weren't any louder than anyone else in the campground.  And certainly not as loud as the chorus of night time creatures and insects.  I was magnifying the situation through my own lens of insecurities.  I wonder how often I'm doing that and not being proven wrong.

I've considered many times telling Ryan that he's free to take the boys camping whenever he wants, but that I'll be sitting the trips out for awhile.  I'll pack for them, prepare food for them, and get them out the door, and then G and I will sit back and chill for some girlie time.  But then I think about how much fun we have, in between the work and the stress, and I wouldn't want to miss it.  And I wouldn't want my boys to think I wanted to miss it.  These are our family vacations, and I want to be in their memories of them.  I guess it's like any other part of raising a family - you st priorities, take the good with the bad, you do your best, and try to enjoy the ride.


  1. We would love to be your camping neighbors too :)

  2. Hi Melanie! I am coming over from Billie Jo's blog.

    Another woman who loves her coffee and her Catholic faith. Me too! As I wrote to Billie Jo, I have a minor Starbucks addiction. But I'm not worried about it, I can quit anytime. LOL! (Hello Lent!)

    I loved your story of camping. How often do we jump to conclusions that we are always the problem? And that people are just so unfair? Such a lovely, honest post.

    So good to meet you today!