Sunday, July 09, 2006


We thought it might be fun to take the kids camping this weekend.

Ahem. We thought it might be fun to take the kids camping this weekend. Just to be clear.

I loved camping when I was a kid. I don't know how often we did it, or even where exactly we went, but the smell of a campfire, the sound of a tent unzipping are such powerful memory triggers for me. I can almost still see myself, maybe sitting in my mom or dad's lap, feeling the heat of the fire on my shins, pulling the charred skin from a melted marshmallow. A big, midnight blue sky above, filled with swaying pines, rustling sounds coming from the brush around the tent site. Me, feeling tired, content... happy just to be outside at night. I remember reading in my baby book an entry my mother had written that mentioned an overnight camping trip when I was two months shy of my first birthday. "We'll make a camper out of her," it read. And indeed they had.

Forever after that if I had an opportunity to camp, I'd take it. When I was fifteen I camped for two weeks with a group of kids from school on a cycling trip from Norfolk, VA to Charleston, SC. Camped somewhere in the middle of the Catskills one winter on a hiking trip the year I lived in NY. Camped again in SC at Myrtle Beach for a week with Ernesto when we first started dating- The first true test of our relationship. And there are countless other times I pitched a tent, just for the sake of doing it. Just for the fun of it.

But getting out of town with your friends or boyfriend for a weekend camping trip is vastly, VASTLY different than camping with your young children. First there's the packing. One night away, and an entire carload of gear is required. And we didn't even bring everything we needed. And the bugs. Oh, the bugs. They eat my poor son alive every time we're outside, so even though we doused him with spray repeatedly, he still got chowed and has got two puffy eyes and is covered with red welts. He looks like he lost a boxing match.

And even though we're outside and the kids are free to run around we can't let them run just anywhere and I heard myself repeating the same commands, "Watch out for the fire, kids! Watch out for the sharp sticks! Watch out for those big rocks!" Sofia is almost as clumsy as I am, so I have to really keep an eye on her. I'm sure I was absolutely no fun at all.

And when things go a little awry and it's just you and some other folks, no big deal. You can handle the little upsets. When you've got your kids, there's no just going with the flow. No just having a few beers and saying, "Eh, so what about the air mattress and who cares we don't have a sleeping bag. Whatever, dude!" Okay, so I probably would never have said, dude.

No, with the kids and something unexpected comes up you are held accountable. You need to explain the situation. Many times.

Lying next to David in the tent, trying to coax him to sleep:
David: What happened to the air mattress, mommy? Why is it all flat?
me: I didn't bring the right plug for it. It was too small and won't stay in.
David: So what happened to all the air?
me: Well, it came out because the plug doesn't fit so it can't hold the air in.
David: Oh. Why didn't you bring the right plug?
me: Because I couldn't find it so I grabbed the one from the pool and I thought it might fit but it didn't.
David: Oh. So why don't I have a sleeping bag?
David: Why are you making that sound, mommy?

And there wasn't much in the way of Ernesto and I just sitting around the fire, talking and enjoying the night. Sofia woke up crying because of some people who were setting off fireworks around the lake so E went in to try and get her back to sleep and I poked at the fire for a while with my beer and felt kind of tired and lonely sitting there by myself. This isn't what I had remembered from my camping days.

Maybe it was the wrong campground for us, or maybe we should have planned better. I don't know how my parents did it with three kids. Maybe they were more organized, more relaxed than us. Who knows.

Or maybe it's like some genes; Once in a while it just skips a generation.

*To read more about our camping misadventures, check out Ernesto's take on this weekend...

<< Home


Post a Comment