Parenting Lessons at the Oregon Country Fair

Just got back from the Oregon Country Fair.  We camped nearby on a friend of a friends property for two nights, spent two days at the fair.  This was the first time back to the Fair for my husband and I since we had children (more then 8 years).  Just when you think you have it figured out, you magically get a little reminder that you still have plenty to learn, (as a parent and otherwise).  For those who don’t know about the Fair, it is a three day festival on property outside of Eugene, OR.  The Oregon Country Fair started as a Renaisance Faire more then 50 years ago, and has evolved into a showcase for theater, vaudeville, magic, good vibes, body paint, music, creativity, excellent food, arts and crafts.  It used to be a bit less family friendly (more mind altering substances, nudity, and less discretion in general), however over the years the fair has embraced children and families, toned down the flagrant show of unedited personal expression, and now includes many magical child friendly spaces, which are a bit off the main beaten path.  So my husband and I have been sad every year to miss the festivities, and this year decided to make a run for it with the children.  We set our expectations, packed the gear, packed the kids, boarded the dog, and set off after a hectic workweek.

As usual the best laid plans can easily go awry.  We got a late start, arrived to set up camp, which went without a hitch once we found our tent poles.  Headed down the road to the fair, had to park atleast a mile away from the entrance in 90 degree heat.   My son immediately begin asking how far, and what kind of rides or games this fair would have (none).  My daughter begin showing signs that it was nap time.  We made it to the entrance, dripping with sweat, and were off to a great start.  We saw several people we knew, found a play structure, and tried to feed the kids.  Things went south when we decided to trek all the way across fair to find long lost friends in a booth they were running.  Kids fought incessantly over the one misting spray bottle I brought, my husband stood in line for 40 minutes to get a subpar snowcone as requested by my son, daughter wanted to walk in the crowd rather then ride in the wagon, fussing and whining the whole way.  Exasperated, we we decided to make our way out, after we could not even visit with our friend due to the childrens disruptive behavior, but got separated.  My husband was with the little one who had not napped, and screamed for mommy for 40 minutes as he made his way to the exit.  My son was with me worrying about loosing Daddy.  At this time my cell phone battery gave out so communication stopped altogether.

Needless to say, by the time we met up at the van, an hour later we were all extremely hot, sweaty, angry, and exhausted.  Our childrens behavior had been a horrible disappointment, we had failed to adjust our expectations to the situation, and we questioned whether we would go again the next day, or ever, and spent a great deal of time discussing where we had gone wrong to raise such whiny children. 
Thanks to our friends back at camp, we re-grouped.  I studied the map, and adjusted our plan to involve very little walking, and focus all of our time on kid friendly activities, with no adult agenda.  We talked with our children about basic behavioral expectations.  With a good nights sleep, we were able to get better perspective on the miserable day.  Lessons learned:

Charge your phone before an event such as this!
Bring more food, buy food, feed everyone earlier before low blood sugar sets in.
Bring a spray bottle for each kid.
Recognize when kids are overwhelmed and overstimulated and chill out!  (My biggest take home: if your kids are fried, your agenda will not happen anyways, so let it go gracefully). 

The next day we spent playing on giant musical instruments, climbing on play structures, sitting in a story telling teepee listening to a fantastic storyteller, eating our picnic in quiet nook under a huge oak tree.  Then we moved to the kid meadow, set out our blanket and watched huge bubbles floating by, creatures on stilts, jugglers, acrobats, all while listening to various bands play nearby.  My husband and son went on a mini walk to get fruit smoothies and watched a vaudeville show, while I snoozed with my daughter in the shade.  We left well before the fair was closing, and made it back to camp where our children had some quiet time to themselves before everyone else got back from the days activities. The next morning we packed to go home while some families prepared for another day at Fair, and my son said “I wish we could go to Fair again”!

A much better day, and an important parenting reminder sent to this mama from the Oregon Country Fair 2012!  Be Flexible!!!!

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