Camping is a great leveller, we’re all back to basics, and our normally private parenting techniques are exposed for all to see. The campsite ladies’ toilets and washrooms are a microcosm of Life at its Most Stressful for mothers. Everyone scurries around pointedly pretending not to notice the screaming child and shouting mother, as if we’re a little ashamed of being voyeurs.
I found myself wondering what you could possibly say in this situation, which would truly help, and everything I came up with sounded patronising. When you’re stressed-out with a child, the last thing you want is some kindly advice from the Smug Mother who Always Gets it Right. Secretly I tried to contort my face into an expression which conveyed the message ‘We all have days like this and no-one here is judging you’, but wasn’t quite confident enough to use it, I was afraid it may just convey pity.
So here are my observations in case any of you are about to go camping and want to avoid the public humiliation of being the one screaming haridan amongst all those other calm mothers with beautifully behaved children on the campsite.
Parenting Tips From the Campsite Washroom
1.If you want the screaming/whining to stop, don’t use language which will result in the opposite. Examples: ‘You’re being silly’ and ‘If you don’t stop whining we won’t go and see the ponies’.
2. Stop talking yourself. The more you talk, the more the child seems to see it as a competition to see who can keep going the longest.
3. If you want your child to listen, say something only once and give them time to digest it. Saying something again and again suggests that you think they are too stupid to get it the first time, and no-one likes their intelligence to be insulted.
4. In the silence you have created for yourself, get on with the pleasing and calming ritual of washing/drying/cleaning teeth, in order to block out continued whining/pitying glances from other mothers.
5. Remember that your child wants nothing more than to get it right, they just can’t always do it. Inside, they are more anxious to follow the rules, behave appropriately, and be more upstanding members of their community than you are.
This last point was brought home to me as I was sitting in my tent one evening, listening to the local radio station, at very low volume, when my 12-yr-old’s horrified face appeared at the entrance to the tent. ‘Mum!’ she hissed fiercely ‘ STRICTLY no music after 11pm’.
Happy camping everyone!