Last year when the baby was but a twinkle in our eyes we took our boy to Deer Shed 6. He loved camping and was at an age (22 months) where, for the most part, he went with the flow. We managed to see a few bands and even enjoy a couple of drinks in the evenings while he slept in the pram. This was before the tantrums really set in. Before the wrong colour cup, or even the mention of it, could lead to a downwards spiral ending in him sobbing in a heap on the kitchen floor. If you have or have had a 2 year old you know what I’m talking about.
In April just after our second baby was born for I decided to book tickets for Deer Shed 7. I was determined we would be going and I’m not sure if I even consulted my husband. Perhaps I was trying to reassure myself that life would go on as normal for all of us and nobody would miss out just because we’d had a baby. It was probably a little (a lot) naive. In the back of my mind I knew it would be hard work……but I booked it anyway. As the festival approached we joked about the four of us sleeping, or rather not sleeping, in a tent and the logistics of being at a festival with an almost three year old and a three month old baby.
On the day the car had never been so full and the irony that we had practically taken the whole house just to camp 45 minutes away from home was not lost on us. After six arguments and three trips back home for even more ‘essential’ stuff we had forgotten we finally landed at Baldersby Park. Despite our reservations the boys actually slept better in the tent than they do at home. The baby managed a seven hour stretch on the first night and I woke up feeling like my boobs were exploding and panicking why he was still asleep!
Our approach to the festival was ‘walk around and if we see something we want to do just do it’. This is pretty much our approach to life and I must admit is not always that successful. I’d had a brief look at the music and comedy line up and I was happy to see or not see any of the acts so I was willing to go with it and see how the day panned out. The flaw in this plan was that the boy’s legs literally gave way the minute we left the tent. For the whole weekend we were plagued by a toddler waving his arms shouting ‘carry me’. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the baby, who is not a huge fan of lying down, was being carried in a sling and that a touch of sibling jealousy had started to creep in. So casually floating around and stopping as we fancied was a pipe dream. The reality involved daddy carrying a heavy child and me carrying the baby. We took it in turns to juggle a big bag of stuff or manoeuvre a pram which nobody wanted to sit in but was useful just to transport the changing bag, potty, picnic blanket and whatever toys/snacks we had to use to bribe the toddler out of the tent. The boy was never bored. He had a scooter lesson, played in the sand pit and soft play, toy cars, messy play, pebble painting and crafts. However, none of these activities were as exciting as running around without his shirt off and standing outside the bubble shop!
Despite buying a program and timetable in a lanyard I didn’t have chance to look at either until the afternoon of the last day when I realised that I had missed poet Holly McNish who I would really like to have seen, had I even known she was there. On the final afternoon as we sat in the Secret Garden Bar we both commented that was the first opportunity we had to actually relax. The boy was climbing on wooden pallets and had found some little friends to shout with. The baby had miraculously fallen asleep in the pram. Finally on the ‘home straight’ of the festival we seemed to have sussed out the right balance of walking, stopping to watch and act, dabbling in a kids activity, having five minutes at the bubble shop and everyone was happy (whoever owns the bubble shop is a genius and probably incredibly rich). We even dared to have a Sloemotion gin cocktail sat in the sunshine. I started to mentally book my tickets for next year feeling like I’d nailed it.
Moments later it occurred to me that the boy was hiding behind a wooden pillar and had gone quiet. I poked my other half and he jumped up realising that our toddler was in fact about to shat his pants. So as the crowds started to swell waiting for Beth Orton my son was down the side of the teepee doing a poo on the potty. A fact he enjoyed announcing as he emerged beaming with pride. Crisis averted we resumed our gin cocktail drinking feeling like we were parenting the shit out of this situation. The boy came over sat on daddies knee and fell asleep just as Beth Orton came on stage. Gin cocktails in hand we were quite pleased with ourselves. Three songs in the boy woke up and vomited which put to bed any illusions of our shit hot parenting skills and forced me to cancel the tickets I’d just mentally bought.
So will we be back for Deer Shed 8? The sensible answer would be no. The festival is very family friendly and is geared up for kids of all ages. The loos are never smelly, the staff are always helpful and there is rarely much of a queue for anything. While we had a really good weekend and our boy thoroughly enjoyed the experience we left feeling completely exhausted and a little short changed in terms of the amount of grown up stuff we managed to see. It’s tempting to assume that next year would be easier because the boy will hopefully be over the toddler tantrums and the baby will still be too young for emotional meltdowns (fingers crossed). I think it would be easier and more fun in a group with other families with kids. A Mr Trolley kiddy wagon thing might also make life easier once both kids can sit in it and certain amount of organisation is needed which clearly we were lacking this year. As i’m writing this i’m already talking myself into it. So I guess we’ll probably see you next year Deer Shed!