Saturday, May 28, 2011

Survival camping

Wasn't it Kenny Rodgers who said you had to know when to fold 'em?

Well, I caved. A mere 20 hours into our first camping trip, we were packing up and headed home.

Camping with a 3 and 5 year old for a weekend obviously meant I had a few screws loose. I posted the idea on my Facebook page for suggestions on managing it; there I got responses ranging from the optimistic ("Just tell them to stay away from the fire") to drugging them with Benadryl.

I figured I had it all planned out. Our Girl Scout council opens up one of its camps to families on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. I thought it was a great first forray into camping: no need to pitch a tent, family-friendly environment, unit house with kitchen in case it stormed, no drunken idiots.

I planned simple meals (hot dogs and Cheerios, anyone?) and hoped for the best.

Except I forgot who I was dealing with: Worn out children who were coping with lack of sleep from two night's worth of storms, a night with the engaged couple from church we were mentoring, the excitement of the end of school, the thrill of bike races the day before at day care, and by the way, we are CAMPING!

Somehow by the grace of God we straggled into camp at 8:30 p.m., delayed by the fact that life meant that we didn't start packing until six that night. The next morning, the kids were up as soon as daylight peaked through the gaps in our tent. They didn't want to hike the trails. They wanted to go into the ice-cold lake when it was still maybe 60 degrees outside. My daughter wanted to boat; my son didn't. Instead, I had to hear about whether we'd drown as we paddled the two of us across the lake while her brother and dad played in the nearby sand.

The men was what killed the trip. My little guy refused to understand the concept of staying with us, staying on the trail, watching for cars and, by the way, don't run out of the tent alone. Oh, and latrines? That would not be a consideration. Instead we hiked back and forth to the lodge so he could use the more modern facilities. Meanwhile, my husband, bless his heart, was getting sick not long after lunch.

So after one last roundtrip to the lodge and a hastily made batch of smores on the stove, I threw up the white flag. I knew when to walk away (though I felt like running). I swore to the camp manager that it wasn't about the camp (because we would go back!) as we hastily checked out two days early. We packed up and drove the hour home. The kids slept all the way. (Ninety minutes later, they're still out, husband included.)

It wasn't my fantasy weekend, happy memories of us sitting around the picnic table like when we camped as kids. But somehow, we all survived. And maybe, just maybe, the kids will find their glimmer as they recount their first camping trip.


SustainaMom said...

Awww, sorry it wasn't perfect!

We were late getting to our first camping trip a few weeks ago, and kiddo JUST wanted to sleep in the tent, so he didn't want to eat anything or even try s'mores. It was as tricky as I expected, but we crammed it into an evening and morning, so we didn't have too much time for things to go wrong anyway.

The good news is you survived! You know what might go wrong and maybe you can use some of that knowledge for the next trip.

The other good news: it has to get easier as they get older :)

Now, wish me luck. My college roommate and I are taking 6 kids camping later this summer. This is the person who introduced me to camping about 12 years ago by forgetting the tent poles on our first trip!!!! Kids ages range from 14 months to 8 years. It should be comic :)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I've taken my kids camping once a year for the past three years, and last year was the first time I felt like we had fun. The difference was that we didn't try to stay as long. For little ones, I think those short camping trips can be the best.