Wouldn't it be great if we took our family camping at the beach? Let's cram four people into a tent on one of the hottest weekends of the year.
You know what would make it even better? If one of those people had autism!
Hey, well, we're in luck because it just so happens that we have a five year-old with autism right here, and he doesn't sleep! Bonus!
Yeah, we did that. We thought it would be a cheap and fun beach getaway. We are fools.
We visited Gateway National Park in Sandy Hook, NJ. My husband, the Eagle Scout, used to go there with his troop, and was psyched that the campground was finally open to the public.
“It’ll be awesome,” Effin’ Daddy said. “We can even visit the Nike Missile Site!”
(I don’t know about you, but I love mixing family beach vacations with scary reminders of the Cold War.)
|Sooo much nicer than a hotel!|
So after many stops and starts along the way, we arrived at the beach. I’m not even going to get into the story of the beach right now. It needs its own post. Yeah, it was as stressful and irritating as you might imagine. So by the time we made it to the campsite, we were already exhausted and pissed off. I immediately noticed that our campsite was right next to that of a lovely couple who were clearly enjoying some relaxing quiet time. They were reading books, living on spongecake, watching the sun bake, and we were about to ruin their glorious peace and quiet. The boy made a beeline for their picnic table, but before I could stop him, the woman stood up.
"Hey, buddy! How are you?" she asked. "Can you tell me your name? High-five!" She got down on one knee and held out her hand. She knows, I thought. And she did. A special needs teacher, she wasn't the least bit bothered by the noise or the fact that the boy made himself comfortable in her camp chair. It was kismet.
That was fortunate, because for the camping fun to begin, we had to get the tent up. I left that to my husband and our older son, the Boy Scout. The Boy Scout thought this would be a great time to second guess every decision his father made.
"Dad, we shouldn't do it that way. Scoutmaster says--"
"I know what Scoutmaster says! I also know what I'm doing here! I was an Eagle Scout!" (Did I mention that my husband was an Eagle Scout? He was an Eagle Scout.)
So while they were arguing over, I dunno, everything, the boy kicked off his shoes and ran like he was being chased. As I searched for his crocs, I heard him yelp.
|Is this really necessary? An effin' cactus?!|
"Owowowow!" he whined. That's when I noticed that there were cacti everywhere. Really, New Jersey? Cacti? Who do you think you are, Arizona? That's just putting on airs. So now the boy had stepped on a cactus, the other two were fighting over the tent, and I just wanted to go home.
"Let's not cook," my husband suggested. "I know a good burger and taco joint in the area. How does that sound?" Effin' a, yeah. Get me out of here.
(Long story short, this "joint" was not a joint, but the kind of place that serves shrimp cocktail in a martini glass. It's not the place for people who look like they're about to sleep in the dirt, which we were. Whatever. Gimme eat.)
Bedtime wasn't as bad as I'd expected. We had three cots and a little Winnie the Pooh air mattress our friends loaned us. The boy loved the mattress. He went to sleep without much fuss. I rolled up one of the rain flies, and as I drifted off to sleep, I could smell the sea air.
This isn't so bad, I thought. It's even kind of nice.
And then, just as I was feeling really drowsy and cozy, I felt a knee to my gut. It was the Boy Scout, tripping over me on his way out of the tent to pee. In my opinion, he peed too close to the tent.
OK, let's try this again. I'm relaxed and sleepy and...
"I want the sheep movie!" The boy was up. Frak.
"We don't have the sheep movie."
"I want Handy Manny!"
This was bad. My husband tried to calm him down by scratching the boy's back, but only managed to coax himself to sleep instead.
"I gotta go potty!"
"Fine," I said, feeling around the tent for my flip-flops. The floor was covered in sand. "Let's go."
I went to lead him to the bathroom, but instead, the boy dropped trou and attempted to pee on the tent. I turned him around and he enjoyed seeing his piss arc sparkling in the moonlight. The boy loves to pee outside.
I lead him back into the tent, and was hit with the stench of three gassy men who'd been eating tacos. While I'd been struggling to sleep, they'd been farting up a storm. Sigh. I went back out to open another rain fly before I suffocated. Gasping for air, I stumbled over the tie-line and fell hands-first into a cactus. Cursing quietly, I tied back the rain fly and swatted at the mosquitoes that swarmed me. They were not impressed by Deep Woods Off.
Back in the tent, I was sitting on the edge of my cot and picking the cactus needles from my hands when I felt someone kick me. It was the boy. He had taken over my cot.
"Mommy, off! Off, please!"
"That's Mommy's bed. You sleep on your Winnie the Pooh bed."
"NO! Want Mommy's bed! Mommy on Winnie the Pooh!" And then he was out. I tried to move him, but he was too heavy. It looked like I was sleeping on the dirty floor of the tent.
Are you effin' kidding me?
The ground was hard and lumpy, but there was no way I was going to sleep on the Pooh mattress without breaking it. I tried to sleep on top of the sleeping bag, for cushioning, but the bugs were devouring me. It was about this time that I started fantasizing about hotel rooms. I'd have loved a really nice one with fluffy pillows, but under the circumstances, I would have settled for a motel with ugly bedspreads and a loud air conditioner. It was bad. I felt like crying. I sat up and slid inside the sleeping bag, which was on the ground between the cots of my snoring, farting family.
Sitting up put me at eye level with my husband. I watched him snore contentedly for a moment. Then I leaned over and whispered these words into his ear:
"I hate camping, and I hate you."