Monday, September 15, 2008

a camping we shall go

We went camping this past weekend.

When our friend called us on Friday afternoon and asked if we would be up for camping "sometime" and we tossed out the idea of leaving on Saturday, he couldn't believe that we would be so spontaneous as to pack up the children and a tent and leave on less than 24 hours notice.

Clearly he doesn't know us very well.

Charlie and I used to camp all the time, but this is the first time we have taken our children camping. Probably by the nature of studying geology, we spent a large portion of our college experience in 'the field'. We love spending time in nature and sleeping outdoors, away from noise and light.

After driving two hours to the north and ascending curvy mountainous roads, we unloaded the car at our camp site and Elizabeth promptly threw up the contents of her stomach. Thankfully, she was sick the moment after she stepped out of the vehicle and not the moment before while she was seated inside, because vomit coating our equipment that was squeezed in to every square inch of car space might have meant an immediate end to our outdoor adventure.

Our friend has three children under the age of five - so together with our four children under the age of four - we had seven small children running around and playing. But at one point, Charlie and I decided that if we had been on this trip - alone with our children - it would have been a lot less stressful and more enjoyable. It seems the combination of new children plus our children created an energy level that now as I'm thinking back on it, just hurts my head. My head hurts even more when I think of Carolyn opening our friend's cooler and intentionally crushing her finger in to several of their eggs that just moments before, they had told me they planned to use for a "special" breakfast.

Although we both have a lot of small children, we have triplets.

Our friend does not.

This weekend, I realized just how much work triplets really are. They are more than "just" three kids. The level of effort is exponential. Three children. The same age. The same wants. The same competitions. The same idiosyncracies because of their developmental stage.

Our friend has taken off the past several years from his career to stay home with his children where he works with them extensively on reading, writing and math. He grows all of his own food organically, and is teaching them to play various instruments. He and his wife are teaching their children to be trilingual, since they speak English, Gujarati Hindi and Punjabi, interchageably at home. They are doing an incredible job of raising their children, but when my friend told me that his children have never thrown a temper tantrum because they don't know what a temper tantrum is, I felt like kicking him in the shins.

At one point, I looked over to see him sitting down quietly with his four-year old son and quizzing him on the curriculum of a First Grade activity book while our children were laying face down licking dirt.

No sooner had we started a fire and I was desperate to get our kids to bed. Instantly, my visions of keeping the children up late in to the evening and wrapped warmly in a blanket so we could star gaze, dissolved.

Their lack of an afternoon nap and over indulgence on sugar caused them to run around the camp site with their arms literally waving over their heads while shouting "ARGHARGHARGH!"

I sensed it was the perfect storm brewing and I could just see children falling one after the other directly in to the fire pit. So, while I was sitting nursing Henry at the campfire with our friends, Charlie was trying to get the children in their pajamas. They were so crazy excited to be in a tent, they were bouncing around and pushing each other to and fro.

At one point, Carolyn shoved William who smacked in to Charlie's face and sent his glasses flying. Charlie yelled, all eyes and flashlights from the campfire quickly turned up to see what was happening and when I went to investigate, I found my husband, terribly flustered and ready to wrap the kids in tent line.

Fresh from sitting with our friend and his prodigal children who were calling out all the capitols of the United States, I approached the tent with a gentle and quiet mind. Having been separated from the children for a good 10 minutes prior to that outburst, I had summoned patience and was better able to interface with our children than my husband, who had been subjected to their bedtime ritual insanity.

When I walked up to the tent, I actually said, "Hello Children. Let us all be peaceful loving souls on the earth, Kumbaya."

They just looked at me and I could see their beautiful blue eyes spinning in their heads. Instantly, I could feel myself being sucked in to their vortex of crazy and then someone sat on the potty and in a fit of acting goofy, proceeded to dump a bottle of water all over themself and their dry pajamas and I cracked like Jimmy Corn.

The words I started yelling didn't even make sense. But then again, dumping WATER on yourself when you are CAMPING and it gets COLD at night and you only have ONE pair of pajamas doesn't make sense, either. For the second time in less than five minutes, all the flashlights at camp were again on our tent.

I could just imagine what our friends were thinking. "Peace Loving Man. What is with those kids? Who is in control over there? Our children would NEVER behave that way."

Charlie and I got the kids situated inside the tent, duct taped the zipper close, and returning to the camp fire, opened up our bottles of beer which we then drank down faster than we've ever drank down beer. We then talked animatedly about being admitted to a mental institution and laughed like we were crazy.

It continued to get dark and our friend queried his four-year-old son, "What continent is Saudia Arabia on? What about Germany? Afghanistan? India?" Then he turned to astronomy. "What is the smallest planet? What is the largest? What are the planets in order from the sun?" Then on to math. "What is four plus four? What is eight plus two? What is twelve minus eight?"

"Who is the 43rd President of the United States?"

An hour or so later Charlie and I retired to bed feeling like the worst parents ever. Our kids don't know what continent they live on and I suspect they would be easily convinced that we are citizens of Pluto. They have a slight grasp of math, because they all seem to want FIVE of whatever it is we are having. Five strawberries. Five grapes. Five cookies.

Our kids certainly know what temper tantrums are and they know how to throw a good one. If I sat them down with an activity book, it would just be a matter of time before they tore out the pages and ate them. Charlie and I lose our patience and we get extremely frustrated. Sometimes, it seems that the ONLY way we can regain control of a situation is to channel the alphadog.

Sometimes, reward stickers and time outs just don't cut it.

The next morning, when one of our children was in the process of throwing themself on the ground for a temper tantrum, I ashamedly picked them up and quickly took them to the car where we set off on a 20-minute drive. Charlie remained behind at camp with our other three children.

But when I returned from the drive, my husband had a sparkle in his eye and a spring in his step. He pulled me aside to say that one of our friend's children had tried to reach in to their cooler and pull out various food items. The mother had said no. The father had said no. But the child persisted. And then, the mother - the patient, calm, yogi master - started breathing fire from her nostrils. She snapped at her child in a demonic voice while her husband desperately pleaded, "Walk away. Walk away!"

But she didn't walk away.

She stood her ground and a monster emerged.

An ugly, beautiful monster that suddenly didn't make us feel like the worst parents ever, anymore. When Charlie excitedly relayed this story to me, I felt warm with love, compassion, understanding, comraderie. And I did what any person who tries to feign oblivion to a nasty situation would do.

I walked up to my friend who was still fuming and placing my two hands palm together, bowed my head and unsuccessfully trying to suppress my laughter, whispered "Namasté."

Life is good and I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me. Especially that spirit that goes CRAZY when provoked by small people.

And to think ... they almost had us totally fooled.


  1. I've been reading around in your blog - and love it!
    And this post is just great :)
    Sounds like a normal day at our household *lol*

  2. What are they doing getting their children ready for Jeopardy or something? Sorry but sounds like your children had a better "camping experience". I also worked with our three and taught them many things before they started K but I would never quiz them while camping. Give me a break camping is running, playing, campfires and smores not boasting.
    Love the pictures of the dirty faces, priceless. Oh and how happy I am to find out that your friends are also human (at least the child and mom)heehee. By the way that looked like a beautiful place to camp. We are going camping in less than 2 weeks and I can't wait.

  3. That is priceless and my children would have done the same at that age, and they are not multiples! My older girls threw their fair share of tantrums. The little one, not really till age 5 because she saw the big ones get in trouble I think:)

  4. "This weekend, I realized just how much work triplets really are."

    You should check out this blog and read some of the past posts:

    Hey, when are we going camping? Maybe Zion???? Let's go!

  5. *OH*, such a way with words you have! :D
    *THANK YOU* for the cool story! :D
    I liked the shreeking in the tent part best. :)
    And then the "Namasté" part.
    And the grinning like cheshire cats - you and your husband at the, ummm, eruption on the part of the other people! :)

    Blogs don't get any better than this! :D

    What? Don't we get to see your friends??? I would *LOVE* to just SEE them! :O
    Do they blog?

    ~Cindy! :)

  6. All I can say is THANK YOU and Namaste. WONDERFUL AWESOME post... and I needed to feel the womanly/motherly love today to know that I am not alone in my parenting struggles!

  7. Karen in Buffalo9/16/08, 12:44 PM

    Yikes! I'm assuming your friends don't have a computer (or they don't know of your blog, or you don't care!!).
    Why do people do that to their poor KIDS?! Sounds like they have other issues and they are using their kids as props to boost their own self esteem. LET THEM BE KIDS!
    They need to spend more time with your great family to see how it should be done!
    Go camping w/o them next time.

  8. Jen, do you mind if I put a link to this post on my blog? I want to write a post that says "If you've ever wondered what's wrong with my kids". You've totally summed up what having triplets is like. People with singletons just don't get it. I've actually went back to work because I can't stand being home with them 24/7 anymore. They are turning me into a madwoman.

    I loved every word of this post.


  9. Smug parents annoy the heck out of me. You handled your situation so well.

    Kids gotta be dirty when they are camping.

    I'm thinking your kids are going to be happy and well adjusted while their kids are going to be stressed, burnt out info. spewing robots.

  10. Can't type....laughing....laughing so hard. OMG, I haven't laughed this hard in days.

    You need to find dumber friends is all, or hang out with other triplet friends ONLY. DUH!

    Okay, back to laughing........

  11. That was such a wonderfully funny story. You made my headache I'm experiencing today feel a little better. :)

  12. That was hysterical! SO sorry you missed the monster emerge.

  13. Can I just tell you I was dying laughing while reading this post??? I was waiting to hear that one of your friends completely flew off the handle!

    Just out of curiosity, is the baby in the stroller wearing a bike helmet?

  14. Ugh Ugh Ugh

    3 at once is not the same as 3 sequentially . . . . NO BODY GETS THAT!

    Thanks for the story! Jessica

    PS - Not that your friends did this, but I personally cannot stand when I am subjected to something like that and the other family is sitting there chalking up their kids good behavior to their superior parenting! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  15. ahhh first thought when reading this post was "where does your friend live, and how much does he charge per hour"

    Then I started to think....yeah, my life is insane, yeah, I completely loose it a LOT, yeah, it would be nice if my kid knew stuff that I didnt, but...somehow, it just wouldnt be the same. How can you find sheer joy in stomping in every puddle you find, if you dont get a rise out of your mom when do you it? That's half the fun for them.

    And while its obnoxious, exhausting, and makes me want to take up drinking again, its teaching him something when he seems me loose my cool, and its teaching him something to go with the flow of life, and not try to cram all sorts of info into his brain.

    If that works for your friend's family, thats awesome. But after serious thought on your post, I'm glad it doesnt work for ours :)

  16. I really loved this one,it really sounded like so much fun, but I am so glad the truth came out. I bet Charlie wishes he could nurse.
    Aunt Grace

  17. PS Remember the time we went camping??? AHH such sweet memories.
    Aunt Grace

  18. I just got a call from my mother ... You know the one "have you read Jen's blog".

    Great story. Really funny! I know what it's like when you finally realize that your kids are ...well...stupid. I have a sister - you know the one - whose kids are genuis level, blah, blah, blah. (It stinks.) BUT what a relief to know that these wonderful parents are "REAL" or maybe not...
    Sounds like a great couple and fun trip. Glad you guys enjoyed yourselves.

    Love, Marg

    PS wait a minute.... driving 20 minutes in the car during a camping trip?? Sounds familar... did you have a yellow cad?? ;-)

  19. Okay, I won't pretend to really understand (not having triplets) :0)

    But good golly miss molly! I would rather lick dirt than spend my camping trip quizzing my kids on planets and presidents :0)

    You're a very brave woman to go camping with 7 kids under 5!


  20. What a very funny post I nearly pee'd my pants. Love love love that your kids lick dirt and I bet their kids would love to be allowed to lick dirt. I think your a great parent.