Here Are Colleen's Top Five Hacks for Successful Camping and Festival-Life with the Young Children/Nap-Deprived Monsters/Goldfish Cracker-Juice Monsters Holding You Hostage
Tip #1: High Hopes, Low Expectations.
Yes. Your favorite band is headlining. They start around ten. Your kids have stood in food lines, handled the porta-potty situation beautifully (see Tip #2), and hugged you a couple of times. One of them even took a nap, a rare occurrence in the middle of a hot field in Nelsonville, Ohio.
But, girl. I have something to share with you: You might only hear the first song. You might never get to rock out those dance moves you practice during beautiful nap times, but it will still be great. Your kid will sit on your shoulders for that one song, and connect with you over something as simple as a good beat. They will hug your face a little tighter than usual before you throw their exhausted butt in the tent.
Tip #2: Bathroom Moments
The number one rule of bathroom time at music festivals is to always wear your shoes. Once you’re prepared with proper foot gear, try to be understanding of the tiny person that you are half-drunkenly hovering over a large hole that leads to a cavern of human feces. Porta-potties are a nightmare for all of us. For those tiny enough to have the option of pooping into a plush patterned diaper, this might be the better option.
On our first porta-potty family adventure, I confidently held my screaming toddler over the hole that led to everything that is dark and terrible about humans.
I said, "It's okay, go poo-poo! Relax!"
She replied, "EWWW GUCKY EWW GROSS I GONNA FALL IN THE POOOOOOP."
We locked eyes, recognized that I was the crazy one, and went with pull-ups for the rest of the weekend. I was worried about regression in the potty training timeline, but when we got back to plumbing, air conditioning, electricity, and basic human decency, she was all too pleased to be back on the potty where she belonged.
Tip #3: Feeding Your People
Kids can’t survive on food trucks alone. $5 for a snow cone doesn't sound too bad until they want 37 of those every day. They develop a personal lasting relationship with the snow cone guy who expects to see you every day at least 10 times. And how convenient. The snow cone guy is standing between you, your children, and the bathroom and beer lines.
My advice is to save your gallon milk jugs (all of that yummy whole, organic, almond, goat milk magic that we all feel the need to buy). Fill them with water, freeze them, pop them in your cooler, and surround the resulting ice blocks with fresh fruit, some cheese sticks, fruit leather, a giant container of overnight oats, and the secret ingredient...(cue intense mom shaming) Pop Tarts. Brown Sugar Cinnamon to be exact. Don't bring that strawberry unfrosted bulls**t into my campground. My children will shun you, and so will I.
Tip #4: Community
Team up! If your family braves the festival alone, most people in the porta-potty line will feel some compassion for the person holding a toddler that is literally crapping their pants while trying to grasp the concept of what a “line”. Waiting to poop is truly nonsense.
But seriously, if you have other friends with kids, opt for sharing a camp site. The kids will play together and you will get more time with your friends. The older kids will take pride in supporting the newbies, and there will be enough adults to tag-out if you need to do something adult. Like poop alone. Or order a piece of Mikey's Late Nite Slice knowing that no grubby dirty kid hands (seriously watch what they touch during the day) will touch that deliciously perfect slice of cheese. You don't even have to cut it into tiny non-chokable pieces. Because you're a grown up, damn it.
Tip #5: This Too Shall Pass
I'm a planner. Some of my sassier friends might call me a control freak. I read all of the blogs about how to do something right (I installed a toilet from watching youtube! We are the future!) The best way to approach a festival/camping atmosphere is to know that you can't control everything. Your kid will go from being the happiest they have ever been to deep, guttural sobbing in the depths of a sweltering tent. You will fall asleep in a quiet pause in between bands with your loving family cradled around you only to be woken up by a strong kick in the jaw by a seemingly harmless cherub who has the eyes of your great-grandmother. Your entire camping party might end up in the medical tent, because let's face it: S**t happens. If you go into your experience knowing that, you will be more open-minded when the itinerary goes off-script. And it will. No matter how many coloring kits, stickers, juice boxes, or first aid kits you build, it will not go as planned.
With that said, your kids will remember this experience forever. In between all of the problem-solving, the poop-handling, and the hunger-abating, hard core parenting that is required, there will also be so many opportunities to connect with your family. Being outside, away from the strong call to Pinterest, away from the never-ending Frozen soundtrack, and away from the tough days will be a cool breeze and a slice of pizza to split with your kids. There is nothing better. I've lived through the medical tent-riddled, PopTart-less festival where the tent leaks, the weather stinks, and one of the kids stabs me in the eye with a marshmallow stick. It's worth it every time.