I hate the outdoors. I hate bugs. I hate dirt. I hate being dirty. I hate when my hair smells like a campfire. I don’t like to be cold. I don’t like to be hot. This is why I surprised even myself when I agreed to go camping with my husband and our two children for their first tent overnight.
I have no idea what possessed me to take the chance to do such a thing-I had a free pass to stay home with Ella while the guys went and did their thing. We could have stayed home and watched chick flicks. We could have painted our toenails and eaten chocolate. We could have remained clean. Instead, I packed up just enough stuff to MAYBE get by out in the wild for one night and we all jumped in the car.
Actually, we took two vehicles. We weren’t sure if Ella would make it, as she’s only a year old. The plan was for me to take her home if she couldn’t sleep in a tent. I somehow managed to ride in the car by myself while the rest of my family went off in the truck-this is a luxury I don’t usually get to enjoy. It was a great start to the trip.
Once we arrived to the camp grounds, we weaved through the little tiny roads that lead to each site until we found our own little spot. I knew things wouldn’t be ideal when both of our cars barely fit there-with no room to spare. Before I had shut my car door, my sandals were filled with dirt. It was going to be a long day.
Then Justin took out the tent. I was imagining a small little shelter with just enough room for the four of us to line up our sleeping bags one beside the other. I should have known better because we didn’t have sleeping bags.
The tent turned out to be a palace. Think Harry Potter at the Quidditch tournament. You go in and a whole house is set up in there. I am not joking you, the tent Justin purchased had THREE rooms. I did not even know that tents came with rooms. So that foiled my plan of sneaking out early with Ella. She’d have her own room (a luxury she does not have now in our house) and her pack and play fit in there with room to spare. Never mind the sleeping bags; A queen sized air mattress for us, and a twin size for Harrison. Crap. It looks like we’re staying. It took forever for us to explain to the kids that they couldn’t wear their shoes in the tent, because they’d track dirt in. So naturally, when Harrison climbed out of the tent shoeless, he made a point of jumping in the dirt (how could you not? SO MUCH DIRT outside.) and smearing his socks in it. He should have just said, “THERE, Mom. So what about my shoes??”
Justin had the grand idea of bringing a beach ball for the kids to play with. Our campsite now had exactly 3.6 square inches left of walking space, what with our palatial tent, three camp chairs, two cars, a picnic table, and a grill. For the first fifteen minutes, Harrison routinely threw the ball into the surrounding campsites, as there was no more space to do so at our site. We let that happen until Ella began running off into the woods on her own to chase the ball. Harrison, we knew would come back. Ella, not so much. To divert their attention, we brought out some snacks, which we ate at the picnic table. Do you know what happens when you eat snacks at a picnic table? Your snacks get dirty.
After eating a few salt and pepper chips (although I don’t know if it was pepper or dirt on them), we took the kids on a walk. I had seen three playgrounds on location as we drove through, so I thought we’d be in for a grand time. We stopped at the closest one, and let the kids do their thing. Harrison and Ella love slides, so of course, Harrison went for the biggest one there. He flew down the big blue plastic chute and, I kid you not, face planted into the dirt (which was everywhere. There is dirt everywhere when you camp.) and cut his face in two places.
We returned back to our site with no further injuries, and prepared for dinner. In other words, Justin prepared for dinner while I supervised the kids running around in the dirt. I mentioned before that we had three camp chairs. Two of them were for big people, and one was for little people. If you do the math, we were one chair short. In the big book of parenting rules, probably the first rule is that if you don’t have enough for both kids, no kid should have it. Well, we broke that rule, because, hey, we were in the great outdoors, too busy getting dirty to worry about fairness. The chair was fought over until Ella decided that perhaps she’d like to stand on a rock instead of a chair. This put me at ease because the rock wasn’t going to fall over like the chair did when she stood on it. Except I was wrong. The rock didn’t fall over, but Ella did. On her head. So now I have two kids with cuts on their faces. And dirt in their hair. And in their fingernails. And on their feet. Clearly, camping is far too dangerous for the Clark family.
We somehow made it to bed that night after s’mores (you know, where you roast a marshmallow on a stick that’s been on the ground, in the dirt?) and a series of hysterics from Harrison who insisted he use his flashlight even though it wasn’t quite dark out yet. I enjoyed approximately two hours in my nice big queen air mattress, fully clothed, before I was beckoned from the other “room” to help Harrison fall asleep. Oh! I lied. I wasn’t fully clothed. I had no socks. Who brings socks camping? Everyone besides me, that’s who. Freezing and resting on a nearly deflated air mattress, I lay awake listening to the rain. Which was perfect, because I had to pee. Surely, I thought, it would be morning soon, and then I could get out of the tent without waking up the wee ones. But when I checked my watch, it was only 3:22 am. All I could think about was how my feet were covered in dirt, and how the kids didn’t brush their teeth, and that I was still wearing my freaking bra. You can’t take off your bra when you’re camping, because what happens if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you run into a stranger?
Throughout the night, Ella woke up and cried several times, probably because I didn’t pack her warm jammies. She, however, did have socks on. Harrison’s antics continued routinely as usual (he doesn’t sleep well at home, so why would camping be any different?!) Naturally, he insisted on sleeping in just his underpants, because that’s normal when it’s cold and you’re sleeping outside.
Luckily, we all survived the night, most of us wide awake, and made it home in time to shower before we turned into swamp people. I think my next camping trip will be to the Marriott. Alone.