Recently, I did something that I would normally try to avoid at all costs. I went camping.
When it comes to sleeping in a tent, I tend to agree with comedian Jim Gaffigan, who famously joked, “I’m amazed we can still get people to go camping. Hey wanna burn a couple vacation days sleeping outside? Ah …. no.”
Camping isn’t my idea of a “fun family activity,” but it was my husband’s choice — and because it was Father’s Day weekend, I felt I had to take one for the team.
The thing is, I happen to love the outdoors. I spent most summer weekends in the mountains when I was growing up, and I loved everything about it. We even slept in a cabin built by the loving hands of my great-grandfather. It was rustic, but there was running water, an oven and stovetop, and most importantly, beds.
Not having a bed to sleep on is one thing, but it’s the sleeping outside part of camping that I have an aversion to. It’s also the exhausting amount of work involved in pulling off a camping trip, especially when you are bringing young children. The prep work alone can take up an entire day. Camping requires next-level packing, and basically requires you to take almost everything from your home so you can “live” outside for a small amount of time.
The work doesn’t end there, either. Once you arrive at your destination, you must now set up the campsite and feed everyone with limited resources. Getting kids to sleep while camping is a Herculean task, and when the “fun” is over, it’s time to dismantle everything and head home exhausted, where you are now faced with a mountain of smoke-smelling laundry to wash.
In short, I tend to file camping in the “not worth it” category, but something happened this time around that changed my mind about camping as a family.
The trip was, as always, exhausting — but it was something else too.
It was memorable.
My three boys seemed thrilled that Mom was willing to join them this time around (my husband has taken them on his own in the past) and I realized that I wanted them to have memories of camping with me — of us camping all together as a family.
Camping was a different experience for me when I saw it through the eyes of my children. Watching them eagerly help their dad gather wood, roast hot dogs, and devour gooey s’mores — while watching their little faces in the firelight as we tried to scare them just enough with our best campfire stories — was almost magical.
Yes, there were still many less-than-perfect moments. There were bug bites, arguments, forgotten items, and the discovery upon arriving back home that our hot water heater had stopped working while we were gone, right when we all desperately needed a shower. Then again, hiccups happen with any family outing, no matter how well you prepare.
Family trips and stress go hand-in-hand for me, but I realized something on this camping trip — that it would break my heart if my boys only remembered that Mom hated camping and would never go with them. Camping will probably never be my thing, but that doesn’t mean that I will deny my kids the opportunity to remember how Mom put her comfort aside to make memories with them (at least, once in a while).
Maybe someday we will even fulfill our dream of owning a cabin of our own. Then we can make memories while still being able to sleep as nature intended … on a big, comfy bed.