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Camping With a Preschooler: What It Is Really Like

First Time CampingThis fall, my husband and I decided that we would absolutely, definitely take our son camping for the first time. We knew camping with a preschooler would be a challenge, but we were excited for the opportunity. I grew up in Girl Scouts and my husband grew up in the country, so sleeping outdoors is simply natural for us. Unfortunately, the weather has not been fantastic here in North Carolina – we’ve had only glimpses of sunshine here and there, with promises of rain and soggy grounds almost every day. Me camping in the rain? Nothing to it. Me taking my four-year-old camping in the rain? God, help me.

On Thursday night, we realized that Friday/Saturday morning was our only glimpse of sunshine for the near future and we pounced. At 7pm that night, I booked a campsite, did a quick gear inventory, and wrote a grocery list. We’d keep it simple with just one night to start and we knew we’d be pressed for time leaving on a Friday after work, but we also knew this might be our only chance this fall.

Friday turned into a clustermonkey of errors. Doug ran late from work, I got tied up behind a couple discussing ice cream at the grocery register, and it was 6:15pm before we pulled out of the driveway. Sunset was predicted for 6:34pm so I was watching the sky as we drove to the campground.

Truth: you have not truly camped until you’ve pitched a tent and started a fire in the dark with a four-year-old and a dog. It was chaos, but it was our chaos and we loved every second of it. iPhones were tucked away and I made chicken and potatoes over the fire and Harry roasted marshmallows over the embers. Then the four of us crawled into the tent and settled to sleep.

Oh, please. Like the story ends there. Remember, we had a four-year-old and the dog in the tent with us.

The dog promptly lost her mind, trying to claw out of the tent while the preschooler howled with laughter. We finally got them calmed, settled, and…”Mommy, I need to go to the bathroom.” I might have groaned if not for laughing. It took some shuffling, some more calming of the dog and the preschooler, but we eventually all fell asleep.

We woke up right before the sun, but as we laid in the tent and Harry pointed out the different shapes the trees made in the sky above us, I was so thankful for the restless night and the experience.

I was also thankful for the 3 1/2 hour nap we all took later that day.

More from BA:

Why I refuse to feel guilty about being a working mom.

Why stay-at-home-moms are not wasting their college education.

Preschoolers are just tiny sorority girls.

Should my son (possibly unnecessary) have surgery?

Beth Anne writes words and takes pictures at Okay, BA! You can also find her on the Twitters and Facebook.

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