Camping with Kids – Version 5.3

IMPROVEMENT: enhanced value or excellence

We took our first tent-camping trip of the season this weekend.  Even with the 4-hour drive (had to go east for sun), we had a marvelous time.

Both Husband and I grew up camping and it is a joy to pass the experience on to our children.  But, up until now it has been 51% fun and 49% exhausting.  But, with Son now 5½ and Daughter 3, I think our percentages have finally changed in fun’s favor.

The level of supervision required is much lower this season.  Both kids understand that fires are hot, streets are dangerous, tent stakes can trip you, camp bathrooms require more than a 30-second “I have to go potty” warning, and most grassy areas have animal poop.  Son and Daughter entertained themselves in the tent for long periods of time, kicked a soccer ball on the open field, played hide and seek, and competed in endless races to the “big tree.”  Son was able to ride his bike around the camp loop by himself. That left time for adult conversations and even some relatively uninterrupted reading sessions.

Constant supervision was only part of the exhaustion equation before.  The other was the actual reduction in hours of sleep.  There was the inevitable later bedtime resulting from a combination of daylight and s’more sugar highs.  And, the early waking resulting from bird calls, daylight, and the smell of bacon.  But…there was also the middle of the night sleep torture.

For the past five camping seasons my sleep has been limited at best.  When Son was a baby, I lost sleep due to fear of our precious child getting cold in the ten layers of pajamas he was wearing coupled with near-constant nursing to avoid disturbing our camp neighbors with the cry sessions that came every 90-120 minutes.  When son was a toddler, I was on middle-of the night diaper and milk heating duty.

[Warm milk was a rookie parenting mistake that we corrected with child number two.  After a middle-of-the-night milk warming session at a campground complete with aggressive growling raccoons, I swore that I would NEVER warm milk for another child.  Incidentally, that is the one “lessons learned” parenting conviction that held up when Daughter was born.  Breasts contain warm milk.  Bottles and sippy cups contain cold.  That is how the world works.   I’m 1 for 256 on things I swore I wouldn’t do the second time around.] 

Once Son was potty trained and old enough to sleep in a sleeping bag, we had Daughter.  Back to near-constant nursing and fear of freezing an infant.

Our tent is now play-pen free and both kids are in their own sleeping bags.  There are no middle of the night diaper changes or milk refills.  For the first time ever, both kids slept all night long.  For two nights in a row!

I have high hopes that this season will be 65% fun and 35% exhausting.

We made it…the Promised Land!!!

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7 thoughts on “Camping with Kids – Version 5.3

  1. Fun! We just started camping with our kids… and actually, my husband (who thinks nothing of backpacking for days on end) wanted a CAMPER. I happily accepted this proposal rather than even try to tent camp. Maybe someday… For now, a couple of times a summer in the backyard is plenty of tent camping for this old bitty.

    1. Oh, no. He’s gone soft! Actually, I consider car camping and backpacking two completely different sports. I love to backpack and can rough it when needed. But for car camping, I love me an air mattress, pillow and hot shower!

  2. We’re on our first year of “willing to try” now that the kids are 6 and 2. The toddler is nightweaned and stays dry most nights, so here’s hoping we’re at 55% to 45%…if not, next year has to be better.

  3. Awesome post! I’m with you on the freezing infant concerns. On our first camping trip when our son was 14 months old, we did nearly freeze him. He cried all night because he couldn’t keep blankets on him and wouldn’t stay in the sleeping bag. The next night I’d learned my lesson and dressed him in so many layers that we simultaneously solved the getting out of bed problem – he was so bundled he couldn’t move!
    I’m just glad to hear we’re not the only family that feels like it’s nearly as much work as it is fun…

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