Monday, August 4, 2014

Why You Should Take Your Babes Camping

Camping has long been in my head the benchmark of good parenting. I love hearing stories of friends taking their kids camping, and have been waiting patiently for the season when Grant agrees with me that our babes are old enough to take camping without sacrificing everything we love about camping itself. We know lots of people who have taken their infants on extended backpacking trips and while I tip my hat to their being badassess, I love sitting by the campfire under the stars with a tin cup of bourbon. Part of loving this activity is not fighting the slow warm paralysis that comes from drinking bourbon under the stars next to a tent with a handsome man...this does not go well with small children.

It does however, go very well with two children who ran and climbed and explored themselves silly all day and by the time we got back to the campsite were begging to go to sleep. We fed them a piece of cheese or two and zipped them in their sleeping bags. They were snoring before we zipped the outer fly.

We drove to Charleston, WV on Friday morning and set up camp by early afternoon. It was car camping, which is again, perfect for small children. There were bathhouses not too far from our campsite, one of those old school metal jungle gyms within eyesight, and the sites around our immediate vicinity were empty. It was quiet. We let the babes run and play without us holding their hands or even vigilantly watching. They spent most of the weekend free ranging, and it was very cool to see what they were capable of without my urban park helicopter parenting. Knox can climb to the very top of the upside down dome, hang by his hands and drop to the ground. Purslane somewhere, somehow learned how to pump her legs on the swing and could get herself going without a starter push. They were super careful about crossing the small dirt road, which was inhabited only by the ranger on his golf cart and the pairs of deer who came close enough that we could see the fading spots on the side of the fawn.

It's hard to say what the most important part of the camping weekend was for Pursy and Knox. When asked, Pursy would say that it was "sleeping with my cousin Aly", even though the sleepover lasted approximately 4 minutes before my sister in law appeared outside our tent flap with a pink sleeping bag, Teri the perpetually naked baby doll, and Pursy in hand. The idea was better then the reality. She curled up very happily next to me (I was grateful for the pink sleeping bag which we borrowed from friends of ours... the novelty was exciting enough to prevent her from wanting to crawl into my bag with me, which I territorially protect for my own). Knox keeps talking about the creek hike he took with his Papa, which for a two year old boy has to be as cool as it gets.

Grant required full participation from all family members for set up, maintenance and breaking down. Both babes helped with the tent stakes and rods, delivered logs to be chopped into kindling, threw away all trash and leftover food, and rolled up their own mats. I loved watching him demand they "slow down and do it right", instead of treating them like children who couldn't learn the important basics of camping. My highlight had to be teaching Pursy to pee in the woods- find a slope and a tree, pee away from your shoes and give your bottom a shake before you let go of the tree and stand up. She did it all weekend, even though the flush toilets were less then 50 yards away.


My sister in law, who has to be the coolest woman I know, is also a beast when it comes to camping. She caught a crawdad with her bare hands, usurped my authority in front of my children about how to properly cook a marshmallow, and drank wine out a paper cup, discarding the bits of broken cork that resulted from opening the bottle with a leatherman and willpower.

When the days were done, the bourbon drunk, the fire dying, and games of cribbage ended, Grant and I crawled inbetween our sleeping babes and just laid there. Marveling at the beautiful course of life that for us, began in a tent under the Colorado stars. Grant asked me to marry him in the light of a campfire, we got to know each other while we camped through Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, and the six person tent that somehow felt very cozy with just the four of us in it was a wedding present from his parents. Now here we were with two little people who weren't even dreamed of when we began our adventure together over 10 years ago.

We may be very happy urbanites who shop at Trader Joe's and walk to the neighborhood pub on date nights, but camping is part of our story. And after this weekend, we are damn sure it will be part of Knox and Pursy's.











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