One mom, two kids, three night, four days of tent camping and only one question; how on earth would we make it?
Turns out, we had a great time, which was what I was betting on based on memories of camping with my family when I was a kid. We had a few hiccups: a couple severe storms, one broken mama toe, and we ran out of sunblock and hot cocoa.
Overwhelmingly, however, it was a huge success. It went so well and we had such a blast that we extended the stay by an extra night and day at the last minute. This change allowed my husband to come up and have dinner with us and drop off my youngest, age 3, to spend that extra night and day with me and the oldest two, 5 and 7. That extra night was great and my three year old insisted on referring to the tent as a “fort” which I thought was awesome.
My main concerns were practical issues: how would I get the fire started? I didn’t buy a campstove because I was trying to do this vacation on a budget. Now, starting a fire with seasoned wood, firestarters, and waterproof matches shouldn’t be too difficult, but I was still nervous about it. My entire meal plan relied on my being able to get those fires going, and I did. I felt like Tom Hanks in that movie where he was marooned on a deserted island, “I have MADE fire!”
How would we all go to the bathroom? Turns out, a seven year old can go to the bathroom by himself and the five year old daughter and I just used the buddy system. Both kids got a ton of independent experiences, which was half the reason I did not take the four year old. I knew for the trip to work I’d have to let them out of my sight. This turned out to be one of the blessings of the trip-they got free time and time to explore like kids, just the kind of time and experiences I got as a kid.
Remember when our parents kicked us out of the house and told us to come back when the streetlights went out? When we played all across the neighborhood, trusting other parents and our friends to keep us out of trouble? Well, they didn’t get to run off from my sight for entire days, but they did get to make new friends from several campsites down and play. Children have fun doing almost anything; they like to play cornhole, tag and make-believe!
They did get entire days playing on the beach, while I enjoyed the new Dan Brown book. My son did get to talk across the bridge to the island on the campground to fish; I could still technically see him but he was pretty far away and I’m sure it felt like he was exploring a new world. And this experience of him going off to fish on his own? Well, my little boy became a big boy and caught his very first fish! And he made a new friend who helped him and gave him a few pointers on fishing. Which he spent hours repeating to me with a tone of excitement and pride that I’d never heard before from him.
How would I survive without my internet access? Ok, I cheated a bit on this during the tent camping. I used the 3G and continued to check Facebook and my favorite blogs (hello Mumbling Mommy!) but I did put down my phone and spend time reading, staring at sunsets, watching the fire, and playing in the sand, in the water, and cards with my kids. Turns out, they enjoy different card games. My son likes to play War and my daughter loves Uno. And my daughter loved me playing in the water with her while my son wanted me to help him build giant sandcastles on the beach.
Internet access actually turned out to be an odd bonus. I Facebooked pictures and moments from out adventure and it turned into a mini diary. I got positive feedback from friends and even gave a newly single mom friend of mine some much needed affirmation that she could take her children camping by herself too. It was fun staying in touch with friends and family that way and since I was essentially live blogging I stored some memories I may have forgotten if I hadn’t done them in the moment.
It was our family’s first real vacation and my first vacation in years. For various reasons, my family has never taken a vacation, we’ve had plenty of staycations, but we haven’t traveled far from home and stayed away for more than a couple nights. This vacation was such a success that it convinced my husband that tent camping with small children could work and he wants us to do a weekend camping with all five of us before it gets too cold this fall! We’ll make sure we pack what we need to play cornhole and roast marshmallows.
Overall, it was a huge success and I will absolutely be taking my kids camping again. My daughter’s best memories were: swimming, eating marshmallows, sitting close to the fire, the rain, and staying for four nights. My son’s best memories are of dropping pine needles into the fire and our “magic fire” that somehow caught fire in the rain after I had given up on it! My best memory? Watching the kids I still see as babies be big kids and creating their own favorite childhood memories.
Let’s connect on social media too: