It's that time of year when we all start pulling the tent out of the loft, dusting off the torches and hanging our sleeping bags on the washing line. It's festival season!! Yay! Our favourite time of the year! Field time equals family time! No electronics, no housework, no standing on random toys; just me, hubby, the boy and our dogs in a tent in a field with like minded people.
We took our boy to his first music festival when he was just weeks old. He did his first camping festival at the age of three. It is now just after his 5th birthday and after our first festival of the year that it has come to my attention that some people frown upon taking children to festivals.
So why do we decide to take the boy? Why don't we just go by ourselves and arrange for him to stay with the Grandparents? Aside from us having no problem with him being there and exposed to a different environment it is to do with us wanting to share some actual, quality family time together that doesn't cost the earth.
I'm always looking at what can enrich his life and teach my son lessons. A music festival does so much for him. He meets new people from different walks of life who are all experiencing the same thing at the same time as him. He is learning to live in the moment. He is learning to be himself. Festivals have a way of bringing us back to a primal level where it's just about being human and enjoying life as it's happening.
He makes me more open-minded. He will stroll into a tent to listen to a band that I might not think to go to and he will sit listening and appreciating the music or get up and dance along. Just being at a music festival sparks some kind of energy inside all that attend. It unites them in a universal experience.
The main questions I get asked are:
"Aren't you worried about his ears?" My son has ear defenders and these are widely available and he loves wearing his - they are bright green and he has a soft spot for comedy headgear!
"What about all the drugs?" He doesn't know what drugs are and he doesn't know what that funny smelling cigarette is. He just carries on with his day blissfully unaware. If I were to tell him now, at this age, it would inhibit his natural flow and make him wary of all the people around him. People aren't outwardly parading their recreational use, they are on the most part discreet about it and it is not as a big a problem as people believe.
"What about all the drunks?" He knows about beer and he knows it gets you drunk. He knows that being drunk can make you happy and loud or angry and stupid. When you see someone drunk and disorderly it's your responsibility as a parent to remove you and your child from the situation - it's easy, just walk the other way. The boy has been instructed to never drink from random cups or eat from random plates. Telling him "they might make you poorly" is enough of an explanation to keep him from accidently downing an ale or eating a 'brownie'. He is very sensible with this and we keep very close tabs on him.
The first thing we do when we get to a festival is talk to the boy about security. We tell him to not wander off by himself. If he accidently got separated from us we talk to him about what he needs to do if he gets lost. We also put a wrist band on him with our phone number and give him a password incase someone asks him to go with them.
Most festivals these days have kids activities on their schedules and some have amazing kids areas with lots of different activities for them to participate in. One of our favourite festivals does a morning Pyjama Yoga session and we love putting on our onesies or dressings gowns and going to play with Gunpowder Gertie as she gets us crawling around in cat stretch whilst miaowing very loudly!
If you are fed up with your family being clued to screens and think your unit could do with some quality time together then get on that there interweb and find a local festival. But be careful - festivals are addictive!