My oldest son would live outside if we let him. He practically does live outside. He spends most of his free time in the garden, climbing things he shouldn't climb, running about, and swinging. I often see him smile to the sky, he loves being outside so much that he is overcome with joy. It doesn't matter if it is raining or sunny, which is great, because a boy only longing for sun might soon become melancholy on this island of wet. He would probably love camping, Survivor style. Unfortunately, his parents love NOT camping.
When I was a little girl, camping was fun. We would camp near friends or cousins, swim a lot, make hotels for gophers, feed the deer and sometimes get kicked by them, worry about bears, roast marshmallows, and if we were really lucky, use outhouses. My parents must have been exhausted, but they seemed to enjoy packing everything that we would need for a week or so into our van and then living like the industrial revolution had never happened. Alberta has beautiful camping areas, but there are also these things called hotels. Even cabins. Even motor homes. Even tent trailers. Even staying home and not going anywhere. We slept in tents, in all weather, in bear season (hanging food in trees), Dad's snoring was the lullaby of the campground, along with everyone else's snoring. There is nothing like a thin canvas wall for privacy and relaxation. As I got older, I would make my preference known for campgrounds with showers and flush toilets. These were communal, shared by the entire campground. As I got even older, not even the glamour of flushing toilets could entice me to enjoy camping. I think I am the only person in my family who feels this way (please correct me if I am wrong), they all seem to love it? I love nature, beaches, long walks, hikes, exploring, picnics... everything except for the sleeping outside bit. My parents honeymoon was spent camping. Husband and I did not have a honeymoon. I am not sure which is more romantic.
My parents *made me attend Young Women's camp every summer with our church group. As an an extreme introvert, I found this camp to be very draining. Nearly every year I had a spectacular "camp pimple," 100% caused by stress. I did have fun with my friends, and all the leaders were wonderful, but for someone who does not enjoy sleepovers (I would rather have a fun night with friends, then go home to sleep in my own bed and skip the entire morning thing), it was A LOT of together times. I remember being so excited when I had passed all the camping levels, there are six, it took six years, I was done! I could tie knots, overnight hike, winter camp (I kid you not we built a snow structure and slept in it and tried not to die), canoe, find edible foliage and berries, perform first aid, survive white water rafting (with a capsize), rock climb and rappel, keep a campsite clean and the bears away, put up a tent, a lean to or temporary shelter, hike with a backpack and set up camp for the night with everything in that backpack, cook on a fire, start a fire... it seemed my time to retire. My parents forced me to go back as a councillor when I was 18. I love my parents, but they were strict parents. When I was 18 I wanted to live at my parent's house for another year or so, it seemed wise to obey. It's why I am so wonderful, maybe, depends on who you ask! I suppose this was all very character building stuff.
Rare photo of me camping, circa 1999. I can't decide which I like the most, the watch, the necklace, or the facial expression.
What it all comes down to, is the fact that I like the comforts of life. I have grown accustomed to privacy in the bathroom (for the most part, I AM a mom), indoor plumbing, electricity, food in a refrigerator, windows and walls to keep the bugs and wildlife away from me (especially while sleeping), a comfy bed, internet, I could go on. I am privileged in a very first world way and I do enjoy my privilege. Life is too short to waste these gifts I have been given and sleep in the woods. Camping is also SO MUCH WORK. So much work for time away from all my privileges. No thank you. I will happily carry a heavy bag around London because it holds my make-up, curling iron, and hot rollers. Even when my friend thinks I am insane and takes back her offer to carry my bag. True story. I once bought tweezers in Australia with my last bit of money. Tweezers, instead of food. I have priorities. They might be off kilter, but they are mine. Oh, and did I mention that I love sleeping? It might be that people who love camping are NICER than me. That is fine. They may take that title and I will sleep inside.
This is our first summer in the UK. We did not organize a large vacation due to budget, planning, and the fact that we are not sure whether our children would be horrible. Well, we are kind of sure. They would be horrible. Instead, we wrote up a Summer Bucket List and are filling our time with day trips and nearby adventures. It has been quite enjoyable. One of the items on our Bucket List is camping in the backyard. This had Mr. L especially captivated. When were we going to do it? He wanted to do it right that moment, the day we wrote our list. We faithfully checked our local forecast, searching for a day without rain. It took weeks, but we found one (well there was a small chance of rain, but that can't be avoided unless we leave the UK). Plans were made, backyard camping was on the family calendar. Every day, Mr. L would check the calendar. Is it Saturday? No, 6 more sleeps. Is today camping? Not yet. Do we camp on Saturday? Yes. Is it Saturday now? No.
Finally, it was Saturday. We set up the **tent after lunch. By we, I mean I set up the tent by myself whilst telling children to not touch things (story of my life). The boys were excited and in and out of the tent for the remainder of the day. After a supper of chicken and salad, followed by a dessert of s'mores made with marshmallows roasted in our living room fireplace, galaxy chocolate (the best), and digestive biscuits (graham crackers are not sold in the UK), it was time to get to bed. We did our nighttime routine and then cuddled in the tent. It was quite cosy, we all had plenty of blankets, flashlights, and books to read. It was quickly apparent that our oldest, who runs on pure rocket fuel, would not be able to calm himself at the same rate required to let the two four year olds fall asleep. The oldest boy played in the back garden for a while, then went in the house with his daddy. Eventually, after wandering the house completely confused for a time, the oldest boy, Mr. K, put himself to sleep in the master bedroom. He was then moved to his own bed. So, it appeared that Mr. K and Husband had somehow escaped sleeping in a tent. It was getting quite cold, I put more blankets on the three of us remaining. After a lot of shenanigans, Mr. G and Mr. L were sleeping like angels. I had my flashlight and my book, and enough covers to stay warm. I actually found myself thinking, maybe camping is not so bad.
I was just drifting off to sleep, I think it was about 12:30 am, when I heard a horrible choking bubbling noise. I shot out of bed, adrenaline pumping. I flashed the light on Mr. L, he was throwing up, laying on his back. One second later, loud crying, then more throwing up, to the side and all around this time. Vomit everywhere. Mr. G slept through it all, like a good twin. I carried the crying shivering disgusting Mr. L, upstairs to the bathroom, praying that he wouldn't wake up his older brother, which is what we all pray anytime anything noisy happens in the night, because once Mr. K is awake, it's for keeps! After a bath and some clean pajamas, Mr. L was tucked in his bed. It was time to collect Mr. G, I obviously couldn't leave him sleeping in a pile of sick. I woke him up and said that we needed to go inside. He followed me to the tent door and then ducked back under his covers. I had to basically drag him, crying. After he was cleaned up and tucked in bed, Husband asked me what was going on. I told him that Mr. L had thrown up in the tent. The news alarmed Husband so much that he promptly fell back asleep. It took me 3 more trips back and forth from the tent to collect everything, followed by scrubbing the worst bits, putting in a load of laundry, cleaning myself up, and crawling into bed closer to 2 am than I would have liked. Mr. K was up at 7 and I flat out refused to get up with him, so Husband did. Luckily, the twins slept in a bit. When Mr. G and Mr. L were awake, we talked about what happened last night. Mr. L, "I throwed up in the tent. Then I had to sleep in my bed." Mr. G's memory was a bit more foggy, "I was sleeping in the tent." Me, "then what happened?" Mr. G, with a confused expression, "the tent broke??"
This morning I did a lot more laundry and cleaned and disinfected the tent. I was tempted to burn the whole thing, as I threatened on social media, but I did not, mostly because I don't know the rules for making fires in your back garden in Gloucestershire, and I don't want to get deported. This evening I packed up the tent, as I have been trained from all my years of camping. I took care to put all the pegs and poles together. I swept out the tent and shut all the zippers. I folded it all together, rolled it, and fit it perfectly into the tent bag. I am expert at this, but it took an hour of my evening, made me late for a phone date with my parents, and reminded me of how much work camping is.
Even now, I don't know if I am truly retired from camping. My kids will probably ask me next year to sleep in the tent, and I will probably think, "this time will be different," and foolishly do it all again. Maybe that's what camping is all about, spending time with people you love and being foolish.
*I really didn't have a choice. I also didn't fight too hard because I knew that I did not have a choice. Also, important to note, I am not upset or holding any grudges. I learned a lot.
** Why does someone who hates camping so much have a large tent? Well the answer to that question is that I have 3 largish tents. They were all gifts. Thank you mother-in-law and Auntie Sonja and Uncle Michel! You keep my camping torment alive and well.