Camping as a family is a lot of fun. Everyone works together to set up camp. You have plenty of time to just be together: fishing, swimming in the lake, sitting around the campfire. Except for the initial outlay of cash for equipment (most of which you can rent, borrow or do without), camping is very inexpensive. And after a full day of work, everyone falls quickly asleep to the sound of quietly chirping crickets and the occasional croak of a frog.
This is what my inner cheerleader tells me every time I get that crazy idea to take the family out for a few days of communing with nature. Rah rah sis boom bah. We like camping, yes we do, we like camping, how 'bout you?
I stubbornly refuse to listen to that infernal pessimist who points out all the doom and gloom of camping. She has no idea what she's talking about. She mentions the frustration of tangled fishing lines. She reminds me of my paranoia around water with lots of little children. She warns of the dangers of open fire and children with marshmellows on sticks leaning in for a closer roasting spot. And she points out that my children are not normal: exhaustion only winds them up so tightly they can't go to sleep, especially not to that cacophony of cicadas and other bugs so loud you'd swear Manhatten traffic was more lulling.
I'll admit that the timing could have been better for us. My lower back was hurting really badly. I would have suffered through it for the sake of the family, but nobody was having a good time, it seemed. Bill and Pete were sick - both had in fact, two nights before, shivered all night through a fever and both were still weak. And all the kids were still in turmoil from the move, so the cooperation level was low and the meltdown fuses were short. And it was HOT. Relaxing in the shade with only the exertion of putting a cold cup of lemonade to your lips would have caused a sweat, and we weren't relaxing, because camping is work.
Even as I write this, my inner cheerleader is arguing with me, telling me it wasn't all that bad. I don't mind the work at all. Actually, I do consider that to be the fun part. We enjoyed seeing deer pass within a dozen yards of our camp. And I'm now totally sold on lake swimming, especially in an area someone has graded and marked for swimmers. It's gentler than the ocean with no rip tides and the only waves coming from passing boats, and there is usually a more generous shallow end for toddlers and pre-swimmers to bob around in. Our evening dip certainly felt rewarding and refreshing after our work in setting up camp. And if my back hadn't been aching so, the air mattress we hauled along just for my pregnant belly would have aided in a truly decent night's sleep.
Oh, there she goes again, that peppy voice. If we hadn't just moved, if it weren't so hot, if my back didn't hurt...my ankles are still swollen and itchy from the mosquito bites. And there's one thing Miss Pom Pom always forgets: the dirt.
I can handle the dirt myself. Even dripping with sweat, I can manage a certain level of personal cleanliness that at least makes healthy food preparation possible. If my knees get a bit soiled, that's ok. If my black bra, left to dry overnight, shows what must be salt residue lines from dried perspiration, I'll survive. But watching my kids squat down first thing in the morning by the breakfast fire getting their clean PJs covered in ashes just makes me nuts. And the picture below, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Pete, 15 minutes after arriving at our campsite, looked like this. And this is pretty much how he looked 15 minutes after I cleaned him up...every time I cleaned him up.
My inner cheerleader is just telling me to pack more baby wipes next time. Maybe next time I'll pack a shotgun and silence the inner cheerleader forever.