Camping used to be such a common occurrence in the Mutchler family, my brother and I would beg our parents to stay in a hotel room. We’d barter good behavior for just one glorious night in a bed that didn’t require self-inflating.
Only as an adult do I realize what a gift my parents forced upon us. After all, so many adventures happen beyond your back yard. So it’s unsurprising that I now want to introduce my own 18-month-old daughter to the same outdoor pursuits.
Terrific idea, tiring practice. If your first experience camping with baby was similar to ours, it went something like this:
You applaud yourself for getting out, for going, for being the sort of parent you always wanted to be. The outdoors are amazing. Babies are amazing. This will be an occasion for the scrapbook.
Five minutes later: Dad’s shouting for the tent pegs, wind’s blowing the tarp away, baby’s running toward the neighbor’s dog, and you – arms spilling out chairs, bags and food stuffs – realize that camping will never be relaxing again.
Instead, it will be a lesson in the art of distraction. (Or, how to have fun while keeping your offspring alive/uninjured for the next 24 hours).
Finally, unpacked and organized, you settle down to chips and a beer in the sun. Baby throws a tantrum until you give her a handful. She drops them in the dirt, but still eats them all.
She also eats the bug spray. And the sunscreen. And anything else she can find.
The immediate easiness of the diaper bag makes you suddenly glad your child’s not potty-trained.
Fire hazard takes on new meaning, as Dad cooks a steak dinner and baby tries to help. Mom to the rescue with more distractions.
Can baby possibly be hungry after devouring every unfamiliar item within reach? Yep, she can. Down go bites of banana, bits of steak, potentially a leaf or two.
Bedtime ‘routine’ is a joke. The tent transitions from a sleepy shelter into a ventilated playpen.
When Mom & Dad finally crawl (oh-so quietly) into their bags, they notice baby has processed all those inedible ingredients into something that smells of forgotten rubbish and raisins.
All night long: Having realized her parents are just inches away, baby prefers poking and cuddling and crawling to actually sleeping. Yes, she still smells. No, you are far too tired to get up and change her.
When the sun wakes up, so does baby. More cuddles, more prods and pokes. No hot coffee, only a fresh diaper.
Man, are you pooped. Baby, on the other hand, is a lightning bolt of energy. Her eyes widen at each new discovery, and she spouts a curiosity so enthusiastic, you remember why you brought her along.
Baby is amazing. The outdoors are amazing. Why don’t you go camping every weekend?
Back at home: Naps for everyone. Next time, you plan on bringing reinforcements . . .
How was your first time camping with baby?