We spent the night in my car. DH put him in the car seat and strapped him in and he fell asleep, and I got into the driver's seat and leaned back, with my pillow and my sleeping bag. I'd also removed a seat in the van, so there was a space big enough on the floor for him to lie down and fall asleep, but he didn't want anything to do with that. After we dozed for about 15 minutes, he woke up screaming and thrashing around, as much as he could. I ended up getting him out of his seat and trying to comfort him, but there wasn't any comforting him. He just screamed and cried and kicked, and it was all I could do to keep him from doing damage, and if I held him tighter or touched him too intrusively, he screamed louder.
At one point he was able to come to himself enough that he could tell me that someone was trying to kick him. Another time, he was trying to reach for something that was just out of his reach, and he was next to Claire. He would settle down a bit, doze off for a short time, and then wake up crying and screaming and kicking again, totally unable to be reasoned with and I couldn't wake him up and I couldn't get him back to sleep. It was like he was trapped in a nightmare. DH remarked today that I spent the night with a hallucinating toddler, and aside from the age group being slightly off, he was right. A couple of times he kicked the horn, which was just the icing on the cake.
As daylight broke, he came to himself more and more, and was in a totally foul mood. He was incensed that we weren't in the tent and beat his little fists against me. He didn't know why I didn't take him there immediately. He shouted at me to take him to the tent. He didn't remember any of the dreams or the crying or the screaming or the kicking, but couldn't calm himself down enough to be around other people in a semi-quiet campground. I could see a peacock wandering around the campfire where a few people were starting to stir, and even the peacock wasn't squawking. I kept him in the car and slowly cajoled him into feeling more like himself again, as I brought out the brochure from the campground ("Hmm, what shall we do today?") and some books ("Hey, I haven't seen this Fire Cat book in a long time! Do you remember what it is about?"). We stayed snuggled together in the car in my sleeping bag until he could manage a complete sentence in a normal tone of voice.
I am exhausted. This is my fourth day in a row with minimal sleep. I set up the entire camp, with two tents, packed up everything to get up there, and then had to scramble to leave this morning. S. fell asleep within 5 minutes on the drive home, which is totally unusual for him. He doesn't nap, and doesn't nap in the car. Unloaded my car when we got home. Two loads of laundry so far. Made dinner.
Many of the nearby parents were understanding. One of them had a child who'd had night terrors, and actually screamed during camping trips when she was younger. Another one started questioning S. why he was screaming at night, though, when we were waiting in line for coffee. I felt like even though she wasn't doing it to be mean, and I took him to the car as soon as I realized he wasn't going to stop, it's not like he was doing it on purpose.
However, the whole rest of the time the camping trip was great. Aside from not sleeping. The kids ran around freely. They loved it. One mom told me that Claire was just wonderful.