I have fond memories of camping trips with my family as a child. But somehow, I have been fearful of camping with my own brood. I grew soft as I aged I suppose, or perhaps I can simply blame inertia-- we just never got started.
To be honest, I had even forgotten that we even owned a tent. But when we decided to take a road trip to Arizona to see my eldest nephew get married (Yay!), J suggested that we take the opportunity to camp at the Grand Canyon.
"We don't even have a tent," I replied.
But we did!
It is a very small tent, and we are not a very small family, but we set off for the longest road trip we've ever undertaken, carrying with us our meager gear for the first family camping trip since the one we abandoned on account of rain when T was 4 and H was 2. That was a long time ago.
And guess what?? We did it! And it was fun!
Of course, one of the best parts was that my sister and her family (sans the son that just got married-- he had better things to do) went with us! And I have to admit I felt more confident with them in the next campground, because they are camping Grand Masters. Alaskan camping Grand Masters, no less. I felt sure that if anything went horribly,terribly wrong, they could tell us what to do.
But nothing did. Granted, the Grand Canyon campground isn't exactly deep wilderness, since the National Park people have kindly placed a large supermarket about five minutes away from the camp sites. This was useful, since we managed to arrive just as dark was falling and had forgotten to pack a flashlight. And there were bathrooms with flush toilets (praise be!).
But still, we went honest-to-goodness tent camping! The baby and I slept in the van, but that's because the tent is actually a two-man tent. Apparently J+5 kids = two men. Or maybe not. Upon emerging from the tent after that first night, J remarked, ala Jaws, "We're gonna need a bigger tent."
The kids loved the trip, especially since their cousins were there. But I could also tell that they really did enjoy the camping. B was a little confused about what was going on, though. I can't blame him. At three years old, what are you supposed to think when your entire family packs up, drives and drives, and eventually settles in a spot in the woods, cooking meals around a fire and sleeping in a tent? B apparently thought everything in his world had changed for good. At one point, after much fun and delight running around the camp site, he sat near the fire pit, grew thoughtful, and asked me, somewhat plaintively, "Is this home?"
"No, sweetie," I replied, surprised. "We're camping."
He appeared to consider this, and then confided to me, "We should go home."
I realized that he didn't really understand what "camping" means, and assured him that we would indeed go home after our camping trip was over. We only stayed two nights and he truly seemed to enjoy the time there! But it was a reminder that so many things we think of as simple and straight-forward can be perplexing to our small children.
Even so, J and I agree we should go camping as a family again.
But we're gonna need a bigger tent.