Monday, September 20, 2010

Camping with a Toddler: Another Lesson in Parenting

Last weekend, we took our first camping trip of the year. We found a lovely campground in the Smokies, and were excited to get out our extensive gear that we have collected, but rarely had the opportunity to use. Jonathan and I both grew up camping, although not quite like this: my family had an RV and Jonathan was in Scouts (which involved many, many boys and no one who wanted to get up in the morning and put on makeup). Needless to say, we came with a list of expectations for what the perfect camping trip would look like.

1. Lots of time to enjoy the peace and quiet, and to do nice outdoors things like fishing (Jonathan) or reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the 10th time (Siobhan).
2. Enjoying nature, specifically through taking what we call a hike (but what some people might call a leisurely stroll on an easy trail).
3. Have awesome outdoor food. This one is definitely influenced by our childhoods. Jonathan's Scout troop was the one where the food was so good, other boys would trade their candy for a serving. My mom was a good cook, even in the miniature RV kitchen (think full Thanksgiving dinner in the woods!).
4. Smores around the campfire. For me, it's the smores, an essential part of which is the perfectly roasted marshmallow. For Jonathan, it's the fire itself.
5. Getting away from everyday cares and worries. Need I say more?

Enter the 2-year old. Just in case we forgot that our plans + Hannah = total change of plans, this camping trip was a huge reality check. Here's what really happened.
1. No peace and quiet. Instead, we ended up playing with plastic toys from home, pouring sippy cups of juice and doling out pretzels, and singing a constant refrain of "Keep away from the road, Hannah," "Don't walk in the road, Hannah," "Stay out of the road, Hannah." Fishing was out of the question. Harry Potter made his sole appearance at 6 am when I was the first person awake, but couldn't get out of the sleeping bag because a certain little somebody was using my left arm as a pillow.
2. Hike? Huh? Before dinner, we started up a promising trail, labeled 1.3 miles. We could do that easy, right? Wrong. Hannah wanted to walk. She wanted to pick up rocks and put them in daddy's pocket. She wanted to look at unidentified nuts on the ground. We finally convinced her to let Jonathan carry her under the condition that I sang "I'm a Nut" (don't ask) over and over again. When we reached the .7 mile marker, we turned around and fled back to camp.
3. Awesome food to a toddler turns out to be hot dogs, or as Hannah says, meat dogs. Enough said.
4. By the time we got to smores around the campfire, Hannah was exhausted. She hadn't had a nap, and was more than ready for bed. After a long pep talk, she was sufficiently respectful of the fire, but we still watched her like a hawk. This meant that only one person could roast his or her marshmallow to perfection at a time. This also meant in half an hour I had one smore, two burned marshmallows and most of the chocolate bar. Then we went to bed, where Jonathan and I pretended to sleep until Hannah fell asleep, and then out came the iPod touch for some silent evening amusement.
5. Getting away...not so much. As Clair from Modern Family said so well, "I'm a mom. This isn't vacation, it's a business trip."
So after our HUGE reality check, we woke up Saturday morning with new expectations. We had bacon and eggs for breakfast, and for that gourmet touch, stale croissants. It was good! Jonathan built a really nice fire, and we had breakfast number two: smores! Hannah loved waving around her marshmallow on a stick, which spent 80% of its time in the dirt and 20% of its time in the air. I had three beautiful, perfectly roasted smores, and was totally satisfied.
Tired of the plastic toys from home, Hannah started wandering dangerously close to the poison ivy, so I racked my brains for what I used to do when I was a kid on a camping trip. I remembered spending hours making tea parties. I introduced Hannah to the world of nature as make believe. We had a lovely time! Here's a feast, presented on leaf plates, of meat (rocks), grapes (nuts), and string cheese (sticks).

We left for home feeling like the trip had been the most fun we'd had in a long time. We were once again humbled by our inability to remember that things are different now, but usually turn out better than life before baby. Even more, we're looking forward to camping again.

1 comment:

  1. What memories you brought back of our camping trip with Covenant members for a fellowship event! Our girls were 6, 4, and 1 at the time. We convinced Sarah to ride on the backpack carrier for the hike. But other than that our story sounds the same. We had to play a "Beauty and the Beast" cassette to get Melissa and Caitlin to sleep. Everyone in the tents around us had a good laugh the next morning about the evening music.

    Kathleen Cole


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