Rocking the Babies
Sam Wilson braved a rock festival with her children, and lived to share the tale.
(Tammy Gardner)
Being naturally bare-footed hippy folk, Andreas and I have always been fond of rock festivals. Dust, beer, dodgy boerie rolls, pounding bass through the wee hours to the dawn… what’s not to like?

There was a year or two there when the boys were either tiny or in vitro, where the fabulousness of camping in mud without running water didn’t seem altogether terribly fabulous. So we gave it a skip. And then when they were toddlers, we used our parents as babysitters when we took a rock weekend away.

I must stress this bit, actually. I wouldn’t want you to think of me as one of those drunken unmothers, dancing like a mad thing through the night, a joint in one hand and a beer in the other, while a sad pair of unbelievably filthy and malnourished toddlers play haplessly with a broken beer bottle in some dimly lit corner . A music festival is basically a weekend long rock concert, and that is no place for toddlers, unless you are prepared to hold and shield them absolutely all the time… and where’s the fun in that?

But, we discovered, it can be a place for primary school children. As my sons argued when Dreas and I were making our Camping Plans for Two.

“What? WHAT? You mean you are going camping WITHOUT US?” Benj demanded, getting straight to the point.

“Well, we are going camping in a very muddy field amongst a whole lot of cars right next to a really noisy stage where bands will play music all through the night. You won’t be able to get any sleep at all. Really.”

Andreas and both boys then gave me the same look, which said: “Really? That was the argument you chose to go with?” They had a point.

“But we love to camp and we love to dance, so why can’t we come?” asked Joey, pretty reasonably, I thought. “What’s going to be happening that’s not kid-friendly?”

A lot of very heavy drinking, I thought to myself. But then, I thought… you know, if Dreas and I aren’t planning to have that kind of rock concert experience, why shouldn’t the boys be allowed to come too? And the boys are good company. So we took a deep breath and took them with.

And you know what? It went GREAT. We did learn a few things though, that might be worth sharing.
  • At least one of you is going to have to go to bed early. And I mean like 8.30/9pm early. Not necessarily because a kid needs to sleep, but because the partying gets pretty raucous, and you don’t want to risk losing a little one or getting him trampled upon.The bad news is that you are going to miss out on that heavy bouncing dancing bit. The great news is that you can usually hear the music perfectly well from your tent, you get to snuggle a loved one while you listen and, best of all, you will be the only non-hungover and terribly well slept people at the entire festival.
  • Oppikoppi  is dusty, Splashy Fen is muddy and Rocking the Daisies is windy. Be prepared with serious jackets, beanies and wellies for everyone.
  • Take your own food. You can’t be 100% sure the festival food will be good enough, and if it is… there’s no guarantee that it will last.
  • As the only well-rested one, expect to get up earlier than everyone else. We packed a whole lot of fruit, juice, eggs, bacon and sausages and made breakfast for our friends camping around us. Hell, we were in parent mode… and it was fun to involve more people in the kid-friendly, round-the-Cadac morning atmosphere. By Sunday, my sons had made lots of muso friends to play Yu-Gi-Oh with.
  • Take adult family or really good family friends, who also love your kids. Even when you kids are fairly savvy, tattooed with your cell phone number and have had the ‘meeting point’ drilled into their heads… it’s still heavy duty parenting, and the more people actively looking after the kids the better.

The funny thing? This last sober, well-rested rock festival was the best one I have ever been to. We got to share something we love with our boys and they loved it right back. They did, of course, pick up on the major drawback of rock festivals though.

“Mom? Do you think there’ll be better toilets at the next music camp?” asked Benj, perched haplessly but bravely above a weekend-old Portaloo.

We all live in hope, my little friend. We all live in hope.

Have you taken your child to a music festival? What was your experience?

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