You decide to escape the insanity of suburban life and commune with nature by way of a camping trip. So far, it hasn’t been going well . . .
You shut off the propane lantern and dive into the tent before you can be followed. Then you try to sleep under the stars.
Because you are actually sleeping under the stars; the tent roof is made of mesh and the over-cover makes it too stuffy, so you’re really out there. It seems all romantic until you realize that there’s not a whole lot between you and nature and rainstorms and bear claws and things that go scritch scratch slash yum yum in the night.
You roll over on the uncomfortable air mattress, which has deflated quite a bit. It’s either roasting hot and burning cold, and the scratching on the edge of the tent sounds dodgy. You manage to doze off but are awoken by a mosquito whining about your ear. You jump up to try to kill it and somehow fall against the side of the tent, rocking it dangerously. The flashlight clatters to the ground as the 4 am birds start singing. Your child sits up and eagerly asks whether it’s morning.
It isn’t really, but the early sun streaming into your tent convinces your offspring otherwise. Sweaty, grimy, and sleep-deprived, you crawl out of the tent to face the day.
But with a smile, for today is going to be the Day You Get Camping Right. You decide that the best antidote to a bad experience with nature is spending even more time with nature.
So you try hikes.
You start out with a super-simple trail to see a waterfall. Your child’s enthusiasm wanes after the first five feet into the trail. She’s tired. Can she go back to the campsite? Can she have a snack? What can she have after she’s finished the snack? After that? Geeze Mommy, don’t you have any good snacks?
You distract her with nature: “Look! That’s poison ivy! Beware!” Which lesson your Real Camping Child takes so much to heart that she plants herself in the middle of the path, screaming that she can’t move or the poison ivy will leap out and throttle her in its three-leaved grasp.
She refuses to move from her spot and you think you might have to airlift her out, when a ranger comes along and very kindly explains that poison ivy won’t bother you if you leave it alone. Also, the rest of the group is half a mile away, so would you like to catch up?
Finally she’s convinced enough to press on to the waterfall, which is pretty much nondescript after all that effort to hike one measly mile. You try to take a family picture, but the younger side of the Camping Family is already trying to head back to the air-conditioned visitor’s center. To be honest, you kind of sympathize.
The visitor’s center seems like the perfect mix of nature and civilization, until you realize that it supports its conservation of nature by plying bored camping children with the promise of stuff for Mommy and Daddy to buy them.
Inevitably the quaint dome becomes an arena where you valiantly attempt to learn about nature while fending off requests for books, yoyos, and yet another stuffed animal. The problem is that you’re exhausted from simple living and not up to the fight. In other news, we now have a new member of the Kaleidoscope family, a bear most creatively named “Smoky.”
By the time you leave the center, you know a little about nature and a lot about your breaking point. You wonder what to do next, but everyone is tired and cranky and hungry. It’s time to head back to the campsite for another burned meal and sweaty sleep.
But fear not: you’re living the simple life. And the next day, when you return to your house and crank up the AC and glory in refrigerated drinks and ovens and laptops and TVs and even CD players because that’s the only electronics Mommy will let you have–
Well, you’ll have a renewed appreciation for the complicated life.
And maybe that’s what camping is all about!