Here’s the thing: we are not campers.
In fact, I think I would call us house-ers. And when we’re on vacation, we’re pretty much hotel-ers. But not campers. No, definitely not campers.
We appreciate things like heat, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and, well… walls.
We don’t have anything against people who enjoy spending time in tents. And we certainly understand the draw of roasted marshmallows. But we believe it’s possible to enjoy a delicious s’more, and then go home to a nice warm bed. And a bathroom with running water.
When we were asked to join, we were told that this group liked learning together. They studied the Bible, they learned more about marriage and parenting together, and they did “some social stuff” during the summer, in between studies.
No one mentioned that one aspect of the “social stuff” was a family camp-out until after we had officially joined the group. We were stuck. Had someone mentioned the whole camping thing up front, things might have turned out much differently.
But it was too late. We had already become part of the group, and right there on the summer schedule, it read “Family Camp-Out” on August 27th and 28th.
At first, I figured I would get out of it. Surely L.(4) wouldn’t want to sleep in a tent. He’d rather play, eat marshmallows and go home to sleep. And I’d go with him.
As soon as L. realized that there was the possibility of sleeping in a tent, that was all he talked about. And C.(11) was no help, either. He was content to let us make the final decision, but he made it clear that if it were up to him, we’d be camping. In a tent. All night.
In case you haven’t guessed, yes, Chad and I made the tremendous sacrifice of camping for our dear children. We acquired a tent. I bought bug spray. And I bought some Starbucks bottled Mochas. (I might have agreed to go camping, but I wasn’t going to give up every comfort.)
The day of the camping trip arrived and the packing of the car commenced.
In case you’ve never gone camping, let me tell you this: It involves a LOT of stuff. At least, it does if you have kids. The back of the car was completely packed…and all for one night of sleeping on the ground. It didn’t feel right.
Truth be told, we had a very enjoyable evening with the group. There was good food, laughter, kids with flashlights, a roaring fire…lots of fun.
By 9:00, L. was asking repeatedly if he could go to bed, so I dutifully tucked him in. He was excited to be snuggled in his sleeping bag, and it didn’t take him long to drift off.
[Cute story: At one point, before he fell asleep, L. must have sneezed. And we were all gathered around the campfire, too far away to hear a little 4-year-old ah-choo. Someone mentioned that it sounded like L. was calling me, so I went to check. As I approached our tent, I heard L. calling, "Can anybody at all please say 'bless you' to me???" I said, "Bless you," and all was well.]
C. lasted until 10:00 and then he, too, hit the hay ground.
I stayed around the fire with friends for another hour, and then I could stay up no longer. I quietly eased into the tent and arranged myself in my sleeping bag.
It was at this point that I fully realized the weatherman had not been lying when he said it was going to be a cold night. Down around the mid-40s, to be specific. But a friend had assured me that once we had all our bodies in our family tent, it would warm up nicely and we’d be fine.
For the record, that friend was wrong.
It. was. a. cold. night.
The kids slept through it. Me? Not so much. Many times during the night, I thought, “I could just leave. The car is right over there. I can be home in 20 minutes, in my bed. Warm.” But I didn’t have the fortitude to get out of my sleeping bag. So I pulled it up over my head and stuck it out.
Have I mentioned that I live in a family of early-risers?
We were all up by 6:15.
Somehow, the other families slept until after 8:00, but not us. Fortunately, we had access — via a very long extension cord — to electricity, and a coffee maker was waiting for us. Needless to say, the first thing I did was get the coffee going. A chilled Starbucks mocha was not going to cut it.
Since we were up, we fed the kids donuts. (What? Did you think we’d actually be cooking food for breakfast on our first camp-out? I think not. A box of donuts and some bagels would suffice.) And we shushed them repeatedly so as not to wake the people who had forced us into this other campers. (And yes, you’ll notice that L. never wanted to remove his “headlight.”)
Perhaps I’ve adopted a somewhat grouchy tone for this post. I should take that back. Yes, it was cold. (Very cold.) And it took me about 3 days to recover from the lack of sleep. But really, we had a great time. The fellowship, the fun, the food — it was all good. The kids loved it, and that made it absolutely worth it to me.
I’m not saying that we’re campers now. I still prefer things like warmth and walls. But I’m saying that maybe we’ll do it again someday.
Perhaps in the back yard.
Close to the door. And my bed.