An astute reader may guess from the title that I am not much of a camper. It’s hilarious that I married a former infantryman and committed outdoor enthusiast because I am so not. His idea of camping was lugging your kit in to some remote locale complete with a dig-your-own latrine. Mine is more along the lines of a 3 star hotel. Thankfully he has come around to my way of thinking. Usually.

We have had some good times camping (and by that you know I mean pre-kids, drinking by the fire and a little nudge, nudge, wink, wink en plein air) and every once in a while I let myself be convinced that it will be fun to bring the kids into nature and live like homeless people, if homeless people had a truckful of gear and more food than is necessary. Well, it’s not fun. It’s dirty and damp and generally awful, but my latest camping experience has convinced me that it could be even worse. Here’s how:

1. Start with a tantrum Picture it: My husband is intently silent, hunched over the steering wheel. In the backseat, a river of tears. I have stunned them with an angry tirade, ending with the old parenting chestnut “We’ll turn around and go right home!” and I’m serious. Serious as a heart attack. My six year old wipes his eyes in the crook of his arm. “It’s camping Mom. You don’t have to be so INTENSE!” 40 minutes into our family camping weekend and I may have lost my mind. Perhaps not the most auspicious of starts…

2. Let your kids help (offer less supervision than normal) It’s camping! The whole point is to loosen your normally marginally attentive helicopter tendencies. Good luck mama. All you’re going to get is a three year old maniac spraying PAM all over the laundry you have hung out to dry and the clean(ish) dishes you did in a bucket at no small risk of hypothermia. And when you do them all over again, spill the bucket of ice water over the fire wood, because who wants a roaring, crackling fire when you can blanket the whole campground in smoke instead?


The beach wasn’t bad. Only 3 out of 4 kids got sand in their eyes.

3. Tent in a storm Our friends (yes, we were with friends, because epic fail vacations should be witnessed by your nearest and dearest) graciously invited us to wait out the storm in their cozy trailer while all eight of us huddled and watched the wind whip the rain sideways. Unsurprisingly, when we ventured back to our campsite, we found our belongings in various states of sodden-ness. The wind had pushed the rain up and under the rain fly where it collected and continued to drip inside long after the rain outside had ceased its pelting. We mopped up as best we could, taking the driest of the sleeping bags and putting the air mattress soggiest side down in the back of our Jeep, where I slept with the boys. My mountain man braved it alone, cobbling together a damp nest of sorts in the tent. In the morning I asked if he managed any sleep at all. His response: “Not too bad, it only woke me up when it dripped on my face.”

4. Rent the ghetto pedal car. We were at a very family friendly campground, and one of the amenities in which we partook was the four person pedal cars. My husband and I aren’t like bodybuilders or anything, but we aren’t noticeably unfit to the casual observer. We’re just regular, okay? But working this pedal car, we were going to die. Three minutes in my husband had sweated through his ball cap and I had visions of being lifted from the cart then collapsing on my jelly-wobbling legs like the winner of an ultra-marathon at the finish line. “My quads are on FIRE” I gasped as we watched small children and rejects from Biggest Loser whip ahead of us. “I’m not going to be able to drive home if we keep going” my husband gasped back, so we headed back to the shop, where the disinterested kid working there tells us he “could fill the tires or whatever.” I watch a laughing family merrily cruise back in and quickly offer to “just take that one.” And that is how we learned #21 had the brakes seized on.

5. Wreck Christmas Finally, finally on our way home, we very wholesomely played a game of twenty questions. From the clues,I  managed to deduce are that I’m looking for a male person who is made up.

“Santa?” I guess.

“WHAT?!? SANTA’S NOT MADE UP!!” screams my six year old in horror. “Is he?”

“Nice one.” smirks my husband.

Nice one indeed.