My child is the best excuse I've ever had
My 14-month-old toddler was playing happily; she ran around in the open space and drew with her fingers in the dirt. A friend and I were sitting on the riverbank, chatting in the idle, relaxed manner that camping inspires. The men folk were out exploring the mighty Murray River in the tinny, their first outing in the new purchase. Friends. Fun. Happy toddler. Fresh air. Peace. Bliss.
Then we heard it: doof doof doof doof doof.
A houseboat came cruising along. We laughed at the slow movements of the huge vessel - like an old lady shuffling along with great effort, but with club music emanating from the rooftop. It was a party houseboat.
Yes, we laughed . . . until it moored only a few metres from our campsite.
The music continued: doof doof doof doof doof. The fast beat and heavy bass changed our mood within minutes. Gone was the idle chitchat of two friends lazily enjoying a weekend by the river; we were transformed into a pair of whining women sitting on the edge of our seats, frowning and shaking our heads.
My toddler continued to play happily, unaware of any change in the atmosphere or the mood of the adults.
Eventually, I declared that enough was enough. They were clearly setting up for the night, and I doubted my ability to retain any sanity with that constant thumping noise intruding on us.
I grabbed my toddler, the key ingredient in my plan, and went over to where the boat was moored, carefully ensuring that I displayed impatience in my foot pace and the angry scowl on my face. I got the attention of a man onboard and in turn he motioned to the DJ to turn the music down.
"Want us to keep it down?" he called out.
"No," said I, "we want you to take your party elsewhere. May I suggest a spot far away from a baby who needs to sleep?" (Note my child's instant transformation from a 'toddler' to a 'baby'; I had decided on my way over that the latter would summon more sympathy.)
As these somewhat emotive words came out of my mouth, I was holding down my daughter's arms. She had begun waving to the men cheerfully, in athat was far too welcoming for my liking. Why was she doing that? Couldn't she throw a tantrum? I even thought about pinching her to at least bring a scream of discomfort (which would hopefully be interpreted as ear pain from the loud music), but decided against it. I really needed her to look upset, though; I didn't want the men to be suspicious of my real motives in asking them to move.
You see, although I was blaming the 'baby', the truth is I knew she would sleep through their entire racket. The boat was distant enough not to bother her, and she always sleeps when our neighbours have noisy parties. It's always us adults that struggle, tossing and turning and muttering threats of calling police. And it was the same with the houseboat; the adults were highly agitated, but the toddler couldn't care less.
To their credit, the men took off a few minutes later. I felt a surge of sympathy for people further along the river. And then I thought about my actions: I had used my child for selfish purposes. Should I feel guilty? Or swear never to do such a thing again? Was I a terrible person? Did other parents do such things? And, if so, did that make it OK?
But really, instead of feeling guilty or ashamed, I looked at my daughter. She will be a child for a long time yet. She's the best excuse I'll ever have, and I might as well use it while I can.
Have you ever used your own children as an excuse?