Maybe it's that we want to remember the best of times. Or that we think people only want to hear about or see the perfect scenario. I don't tend to jump at the opportunity to post my travel fails (usually involves me reading a map wrong or insisting on taking public transportation because it would be "fun") or parent frustrations (child who doesn't want to leave a hotel room in a foreign city and prefers to take a bath).
However, what kinds of stories do I find helpful? Which photos make me feel something a little different than the perfect photos? It's usually the hard stories that I bookmark to go back and read later. Or the unstaged photo that reminds me of something less-than-perfect. It's that craziness that we are all living, but don't always share. I felt like parenting as a new, stay-at-home mom was very isolating. Reading blogs and parenting books was how I learned to accept this crazy job we call parenthood. I feel a little more normal hearing that other people were struggling with clingy children and bossy 3-year-olds.
I am reflecting on all of this because I just called it quits in the middle of a camping weekend. It was a perfect storm, really. I was feeling courageous and ambitious - I was going to take Kiki camping alone (not entirely alone, but without my husband). Dan was working the dreaded weekend call and our friends were heading north to McCall. "I could do this," I thought!
I filled the car neatly, with all of our camping gear and ingredients for the near-gourmet meals we had planned. The car was washed and filled with gas, snacks were readily available at my fingertips to pass back to Kiki during the 3-hour drive. The iPad was charged, but I was sure we could make it the whole way without her requesting to watch something.
The drive went well, but the iPad came out at around 1.5 hours. And it all kind of went down hill from there. Kiki is newly potty-trained during the day, but she still wears a pull-up on long car-rides and at night. By the time bedtime rolled around, she had already leaked through 2 of the 8 pull-ups I had for the weekend (bad planning on my part) and one pair of jammie bottoms. She was the only kid still calling "Mommy" from the tents around 9:30 pm. As this was abnormal behavior, I checked on her to found she had leaked through another pull-up, plus had a wet sheet and jammies. Yikes.
Then, my worst camping fear (well, maybe not my worst, but right up there) came true. She wakes up at 2:30 am with....you guessed it, ANOTHER diaper leak. You have got to be kidding me. This time she is shivering and soaked in pee. I will spare you more details but we were up more of the night that we slept.
My kid does not perform her best without adequate sleep. Neither do I. We were both running on empty and it wasn't pretty. With three girls under the age of 3 1/2, limited camp chairs to play on and plenty of proverbial buttons to push, there were more squabbles than happy playing going on. Around 11:30 am, I knew I was in over my head. My child was acting like a person I didn't know. I was definitely not "unruffled" as Janet Lansbury (one of my favorite parenting advise givers) says. I knew it would be really bad if I had another night in the woods like the one before... I threw up the white flag.
I hastily packed up our bags and took down the tent while my child screamed and cried (over what she was wearing, of course). She was tired. I had lost my patience. Thankfully my older sister had joined us for the night and was driving back to Boise with us.
I guess I share this story because it was real and it wasn't pretty. I felt defeated and like I had failed in so many ways. I wasn't strong enough or brave enough to finish what I had started. I let a toddler's age-appropriate behaviors get the best of me. I had let my friends down by leaving early. But, I knew when I had to listen to myself.
Our camping stories aren't always fields of lupine at sunset or hiking to crystal clear lakes for picnics (both good photo ops). Our adventures almost always have some ugly, and some have more than others.