Parenting & Other Life Stories

Trading perfume for Bug Spray

The thing I love about camping, is sitting still. I think this love is something that is reminiscent from my youth. Just finding that spot outside, and sitting, drawing in the warmth, breathing it in deep and then lazily letting it out; meanwhile listening to the birds call to each other in various musical tones, and noting the background of distant murmuring voices talking and laughing. Although this can be enjoyed at any time of the day my favourite time is in the morning when I can enjoy the early air mixed with the scent of rich aromatic coffee.

So, in 2015, we decided to buy a travel trailer and try our hand at family camping. Travel trailer camping compared to the camping I remember from childhood are worlds apart. The camping dad and I did involved an old square based pop-up camper that was shaped like a canvas triangle when set-up. The beds in our pop-up were 2 pieces of plywood hanging out in the air to form the left and right sides of the triangle, and the canvas just pulled elastic-like around the edges of the plywood. If a person wanted to sneak out the side between the canvas and the plywood it was a simple act; there was no need to use the noisy zipper door that buttoned to the tin can base. In addition to the plywood bed base there was a thin mattress that created the illusion of comfort. Furthermore, there was no power, no water, no television, no phones, nothing! We ate off the fire pit, and we used outhouses. It seemed, in a sense, more like real camping. At least more rugged. Then of course there were good old tents, and ground sleeping. I must confess that this is a bit too rugged for me.

Our travel trail at 32 feet offers lots of space, more then I think we need for camping. In terms of layout we have our own bedroom at one end of the trailer, and the boys share a room at the other end. In between the 2 bedrooms is our kitchen, dining room, and family space, as well as a small washroom. Our 2 boxers (70 pounds each) also camp with us, and sleep comfortable in the family space.

Anyway, this travel trailer camping seems like home in the wild. Our biggest challenge that first year we camped was the 5 and 2 year old, mostly the 2 year old. I believe that he was trying to re-define wild! For any of you who have seen the movie The Croods, particularly the scene where the baby is held up in the air. This baby is feral with arms and legs flailing, mouth chomping, and spit flying; this baby is primed for mischief. That was my 2 year old!

This year our first camp session found us doing a tiny bit of roughing it, which was a pleasant reminder of those summers in the pop-up trailer. Unfortunately, when we got to the campground and got set up all the lights suddenly went out, the fridge stopped working, and so did the heat (of course the weather was cool, and it started to rain and it did not stop for 3 days), and the water wouldn’t work. We did have power in the electrical sockets, but nothing else. Our 6 year old thought this was great fun. “Camping is so fun Mom!”

Maybe that is another plus to the camping of my youth, less stuff to break, and less stuff to have the warranty blues over!

When we go camping I like to go off the grid. For me that means no cell phone, no I-pad or computer, and etcetera. Therefore, we are not texting, or on Facebook, or any other social media, and no phone either. I have the phone for emergencies, but it is turned off and hidden away. My boys also do not have access to these things while we camp. We do watch the occasional movie if it rains, or when we are up before the noise curfew. Those movies are family movie time.

This separation from the rat race is one of the things I love the most about camping. It is an extension of that stillness I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, there is something remarkably refreshing about a separation from social media overload. As I have learned, the craziness will be there raging on in 2 or 3 days, or a week, or whenever we get back. The other thing to note is that it usually doesn’t miss us either.

The boys are so young that they really don’t notice the absence of these gadgets. However, on a different note, it is a wonder to me that they enjoy camping so much. To clarify, when I take a look at them after camping they look as if they have been in a battle for their lives! They have cuts, scrapes, more bug bites then a person can count (we do use bug spray), grime and filth hidden in creases despite being cleaned, sun and wind burn, and a look of sleep deprivation. However, the next day one or the other of them will ask, without fail, if we can go camping!

Clearly, our camping is anything but calm and peaceful. As I write my first draft of this piece I am trying to catch my breath from “samurai training.” My boys are currently into Power Rangers, so camping involves samurai training. My role starts off with blowing bubbles for them to karate chop, kick, and smash. However, somewhere along the line they decided that I needed to train for my role as “yellow ranger.” I fulfill my unarmed combat against the bubbles with a focused mind for every camper’s plight against mosquitos.

In any event the serenity of camping will elude us for a few more years. A year has brought a wondrous change to the boy’s reception to camping. I can safely put my 3 year old’s feet on the ground this year without worrying about him barrelling headlong into the wilderness in search of a large and wild opponent worthy of his menacing presence (good grief). However, it is still loud, wild, and full of bubbles, water fights, tag, and hide and seek.

Ah, camping season!

Boys camping favourites:

  1. The small cache of toys that is left in the trailer year round, so when camping season is upon us the boys are in their glory playing with long forgotten toys.
  2. Each campground has a new park with new playground equipment to explore.
  3. Camping bedroom and bed. What child doesn’t love a sleeping bag?
  4. Campfires and smores (we found gluten-free smore kits).
  5. Lots of outside time.
  6. Parental attention free from the regular bustle of everyday life.
  7. Strawberry picking (we only did this on one camping trip, but they ask about it and talk about it every time we go camping).

By Shari Marshall – 2016

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