Kid Camping

Dec 15, 2017

Credit Heather Curlee-Novak

With all the monstrous highs and lows for Americans these days, here is a crazy truth about our world: There is snow on the ground and people are camping in it for fun.  You know, canvas tent-sleeping bag-peeing outside-heating up coffee on a firepit, camping.  A local Boy Scout troop was snow camping just last weekend and my husband has shared a few stories about snow camping, but I do not see the appeal. 

I like camping.  Or I used too.  When I was in my twenties my dog Darby and I would drive to Estes Park, Colorado every summer to stay at “Dreamland”, our family cabin.  It’s an eighteen-hour drive so I’d camp one night each way. I felt like a badass travelling solo; setting and breaking camp, making a fire and eating what I could cook over it. Cheaper than a hotel, too!

When I got married, we put camping gear on our wedding registry and got it!  Beautiful matching Eddie Bauer sleeping bags with plaid flannel inserts.  A new Coleman Camp stove.   A tent big enough for two adults and two dogs instead of my cute single girl pop up.  We used the gear…once. Or Twice.

Then we had kids.

Some parents are awesome outdoors people who could manage taking little kids tent camping like my Dad.  Other parents, like us, are just tired.  We would occasionally admire our gear stowed in the basement.  Once the girls were out of cloth diapers we even planned a camping trip most summers.  We didn’t go. We liked the idea of camping. 

This summer some friends talked about camping.  We even got serious enough to try reserving a spot but the campground was full. My friend Jen lives on the edge of our neighborhood park, so Lucas and I plotted to spend the night in her yard in our tents.  It would be a hootenanny.

We dragged all the things from our homes to our makeshift campsite. Stuff was bought to roast on sticks. Our site hostess actually provided blow up mattresses for us.  There would be three adults and five children camping.  Our spouses opted for real beds in real houses.  We razzed them, but since we were the more awesome parent, we would let them go home at bedtime. This was a mistake.

You see, the thing about camping is it looks fine as a concept.  Some grownups do not fare well sleeping on the ground.  Even with an air mattress, it isn’t comfortable.  I discovered one cannot move around because sleeping in what is basically a bounce house is noisy, awkward and no good.  The bugs were too loud. I was somehow hot and cold at the same time.  Our host’s son went inside to his own bed right away, but our 8year old daughters and two remaining 6year olds were still awake and talking at 1:05am.  My body ached from eating bags of salty chips. I’d lugged all this sssshload of stuff out here, so who am I to call “uncle!” and give in?  When one of the five kids in the huge kid tent gets ‘punished’ by moving into your tent to sleep with you, you are punished too.  Trying to yell at the other kids in the kid tent to be quiet without trying to get up off of the bounce house bed (or waking up the kid sleeping with you) is…impossible.

Then the other six year old moved into his father’s tent.  I think they might have slept. Around 2:10am I told Portia & Belle not one more peep.  Guess what? PEEP.  This sent Belle to her dad’s tent too.  We were like parental body snatchers. Five kids to start the night in the big tent and now only one left.  In the morning she was gone too, headed inside to sleep on the couch.

I hadn’t slept and wondered how soon I could just give up, get up and go inside to make coffee. At 6:47am I wearily decided I was only getting up and outta the tent one more time. Nature called, so GOOD MORNING.  I staggered inside to make coffee and breakfast.  As we recounted the experience and ate breakfast Jen said we should do it again soon. Bleary eyed and frazzled I grumbled, “Never, never, never again!”.  Later as we packed up our tents, deflated the mattresses and stowed the gear I began to think….”Well, maybe…”  But never with snow on the ground.  Or bugs. Or air mattresses…or children.

Music: "The Camping Trip" by Ray Stevens