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Girl Campers

Every “staycation” Brian and I
try to come up with new things for the girls to try: a day-trip
somewhere new, seeing a sport live for the first time, that sort of
thing. And the girls have been asking about camping out for a while
now – one of Maddie’s best friends is a regular camper,
heading out on weekends in either a pull-along camper or a tent. So
we figured that this spring break was an ideal time for us to try
camping out – in the back yard.

And when I say “us”, I mean everyone but me.

Listen, I love me some nature. I could sit outside and watch the
crickets hop all day. I’ll go on nature walks for hours,
looking up animals in my bird books or counting the petals on a
flower to figure out its classification.

But at the end of the day, it’s time to go inside and lie
down on a nice, comfy mattress.

And before you get all “Well, if you
just TRY it . . .”, let me assure you, I’ve tried it.
I’ve camped out with my family. I know how to roll a sleeping
bag and cook oatmeal in a dutch oven on a fire pit. I was a girl
scout, y’all, and did sleepaway camp in Texas where we had
six-inch scorpions joining us in the outdoor showers. And did I
mention my family’s farm? My grandparents own an
honest-to-God log cabin on forty acres in Wisconsin, and I have
spent WEEKS at a time in my childhood without the benefit of indoor
plumbing. I’ve used a flashlight at 2 a.m. to go pee,
thumping the outhouse first for snakes.

I’ve tried it.

It’s just not my thing any more. At the very least, I like
being able to step inside a rustic cabin and creak the screen door
shut as the sun sets and the mosquitoes come out. I enjoy snuggling
into a mattress, even a thin and perpetually damp one, at the end
of the day. So take my general feelings about sleeping in a tent,
and then picture with me my children: “Why is it so dark?
What if someone climbs over the fence to get us? The ground is
hard- I can’t get to sleep! How do we keep the mosquitoes
out? How come Cora has more ground space than me?” Imagine
how I’d respond to that at 3 a.m. when I’m bleary-eyed
and ready to murder someone for a down pillow, and you’ll
know then why, last Friday night, the tent in our backyard had only
three sleeping bags in it.

I really wasn’t sure if the girls would stick it out or not,
and I’d been cautioned that camping in the back yard for the
first time can backfire since going back inside is such an easy
out. I gave Brian and the girls a two-way radio and promised
I’d have mine BY MY SIDE the entire night in case they needed
to talk to me, and walked away.

At first, it went as I predicted. Maddie would buzz me on the
radio: “Mommy? I’m not sure about this. I’m
really not sure about this. I think I should just come in.”
And I’d love on her over the airwaves, then hear Brian in the
background say, “Ok, Maddie, let’s give it another try

And if I’m the crabby spoilsport of this story, my husband is
the hero. He was patient and funny and cheerful with the girls the
entire time – which for an introvert like him is not his de
facto setting. When the troops became positively mutinous, Brian
whipped out his secret weapon – his smart phone – and
they watched short videos, laughing and relaxing until they were
ready to sleep.

I finally fell asleep myself somewhere around midnight; I’d
been unable to crash as I’d expected, simply because I was
listening for them. So I was sleeping deeply when Cora came
snuggling up to me at 3 a.m. I sat up, bleary-eyed, and only then
heard the thunder crashing outside our windows. Yes, everyone had
gone to sleep, only to be awakened by a thunder storm. Cora was so
upset at having to move into the house that she sobbed until Brian
promised a sleepover in Mommy and Daddy’s bed.

So the party did move indoors, but only because of the weather. My
girls successfully went to sleep, and are already asking about
their next campout, even speculating on whether or not we should
buy our own tent.

That’s a three-person tent, right? Father-daughter bonding
trips are so important these days.


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