For months, we've been looking forward to a 4-day weekend with my mom's family in the North Carolina mountains. I was picturing the whole "it takes a village" vibe as children capered around the lawn and adults laughed and talked, commiserating joyously on the humors of parenthood. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that my family was involved. And that the mountains are Nature's Deathtrap.
We had a great drive up and met my Uncle M as he was pulling out to go to the river, which we learned later is basically a whirlpool of frozen doom. He sent us to stay with one of my favorite cousins and his fun wife and 3 adorable daughters. We were so excited to think of Cleo chasing the girls around and actually getting to know her cousins. We settled in upstairs, Craig went to sleep, and Cleo and I enjoyed some Little People as I tried to keep her from falling through a banister made of twigs onto a floor strewn with jacks, chokeables, and Froot Loops. Then the cousins came home from the river and greeted us with a round of, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE??? THIS IS OUR HOUSE!!!", which was delightful.
Turns out no one at the river had told them we were coming, we were already there, or we were staying with them. And they weren't pleased. We hastily re-packed the car to various threats, such as, "You can stay here, but you won't like it when our dog bites the baby," and "Fine, stay upstairs, but that's where the girls watch movies and giggle until midnight," and the great kicker, "We're just going to pack up and drive home and you can stay here by yourselves". They never even acknowledged Cleo or Craig, and I came to wish they hadn't spoken to me, either.
We just felt so overwhelmed with familial love.
So we took our stuff 3 houses down to where my mom would stay with her sister's family and her brother's family. Already 10 people in that house, but it would be better to sleep in an attic crawlspace than with Cousin Shrew and her rabid dog. We were given the basement, all to ourselves, with 4 full beds and 2 TVs, and we felt like we had struck gold.
Until we found out we were bedded down in "Grand Central Station". Since this house had the most open floorplan and the biggest table, it was where every meal was cooked and eaten. As soon as the smell of sausage wafted from the windows at 7am, 10 kids came tumbling in like a herd of incontinent elephants, took over the TV, stopped up the bathrooms, and shrieked outside for hours like pigs being slaughtered. Even in our basement sanctuary, you could hear every footstep, especially the clicky little sandals that my aunts like to wear and the clumping yeti boots of the boys. There would be no peace.
Oh, and the happy children frolicking? Not to be. Several of the cousins are scratching, biting, pushing monsters, and most of the older kids just wanted to space out in front of the TV playing wrestling games on PlayStation. No one knew Cleo's name, and the ones who asked called her Chloe for the rest of the weekend. Fido bit two kids and got sent home to his kennel. And there was no sugar for the coffee I needed to keep me from going completely feral.
And the "village" I had envisioned was also total bunk. These folks had done their toddler time and were totally oblivious. I actually saw Cleo pick up a wine glass brimming with wine, and some second aunt-in-law giggled and said, "Let's see what she'll do with that!" My mom and I nearly gave each other concussions lunging to stop anything from alcohol poisoning to 19 stitches as 10 cousins looked on, amused at our rush. She almost ran out the screen door and into the street 20 times. And she wouldn't go to sleep at 8... or 9.... or 10... until we drove her to sleep at 10:30. And then she woke up at 5am.
So, within 24 hours of arriving, we were packing up the car to head out. People who hadn't spoken to us the entire time begged us to stay while their spouses argued in the other room about the fact that Cousin Shrew wouldn't leave her house because she was mad at us. Luckily, we didn't have to pack up much food, because other peoples' kids had eaten it all. Uncle M tried to convince us to stay with an enticing day of fishing our frozen child out of a dangerous river, followed by watching skydivers, eating hot dogs, and playing with fireworks.
We are now having a fabulous vacation at home while everyone thinks we are away. The phone isn't ringing, we have nothing on the calendar, neither dog nor child is threatening to bite Cleo, and there are absolutely no clicky heels keeping us from a fretful sleep.
I have come to learn that while it used to "take a village" to raise a child, my village is full of idiots, or at the very least, folks with too much drinking to do to keep my child from running into the street. The mountains will be wonderful in 3 or 4 years, but until then, I think we'll stay home and listen to the fireworks as a gentle counterpoint to Firefly reruns and the idyllic sound of a mountain stream emanating from Cleo's white noise machine at 8pm.