Listen, I used to love camping with my friends. And I used to love camping with my wife. I used to go backpacking for days and days, and enjoy disconnecting from the world and getting right with nature.
But camping with my children, well … I can do without that.
And you know what, I wasn’t opposed to camping with my kids until I actually did it.
I have spent enough long nights in a tent cleaning puke or pee out of a sleeping bag at two A.M., or had all the kids climb in bed with me because they “heard something,” or treated a screaming toddler for poison oak, or had to drive back to town because one of the kids needed stitches, enough times to know that camping with children is flat-out hell.
Every single time we go camping, I spend the majority of the time hot and sleepless, comforting one child who’s crying, while yelling at another to stop playing with the fire, while counting the hours until we can go home.
Here is a short list of why camping with kids is hell.
My kid’s act like every hike is a death march.
The fact that they can’t use screens is viewed as a hate crime. Our dog acts like he’s the subject of an exorcism with each passing dog. I mean, wow, I use vacation days to go camping. Not a vacation. Not even close.
The last time we went camping, we stayed in the Oregon woods along side this amazing emerald green lake. The setting, the view, all of it, was wonderful.
But dogs barked all night, and some college students howled at the moon all night, and some inconsiderate man cow of a hillbilly got up at 4AM to go fishing and rocked the earth with his farts.
And every time I took my grade-schooler potty I had to latterly hold her so she didn’t fall through the toilet and into a hole in the earth full of every campers pee and poop.
Some people might think we’re doing it wrong if we’re so miserable.
I know, there are people reading this, ready to give suggestions on what we are doing wrong, how we shouldn’t stay in camp site because there are too many people for example.
We should just really rough it out in the no man’s land, and bring all the water, and poop in a hole, and really get away from other people. But here’s the thing, I handle enough poop with three children under 12, I don’t need to be burying it myself. And have you heard of a cabin with running water?
Sorry. Not interested in any of your suggestions.
Do we have a few rewarding moments each time we go camping? Yes, we do.
Roasting marshmallows over the fire is always priceless, and every time we see a wild animal, all three of my children freak the eff out.
But they do not outweigh the pain.
Do we always end up going camping each summer much to my chagrin? Oh yes, we do. Sigh.
Am I a summer scrooge because I don’t like camping? Well… if you ask my wife, the answer is yes. In fact, that’s the title she’s given me. She brings it up every time I roll my eyes at the thought of camping.
Naturally, this summer, we went camping for Father’s Day weekend.
Why did I agree to this then? Well… there are a few reasons.
My wife and kids, they love camping, so we go at least once a summer as a family. It was nice to check that box. But why on Father’s Day weekend? I mean, I had an out, right?
Because Father’s Day isn’t about me. Nor is camping, or spending time with my family. It’s about my kids, and my wife. It’s about making sure that they know I love them, and I value my role as a father.
Don’t get me wrong, I took a nap while camping on Father’s Day. And I got some gifts that were obviously bought with Father’s Day in mind, but they were actually for the children (I got a poop emoji pillow this year. Exactly what I wanted…).
But right now, with my children being young, I want them to know that I’m their dad, and that I value them and our relationship. And I can’t think of any better way to celebrate fatherhood than by spending time with my family, even if it means camping.
Much of parenting is sacrifice, right? People talk about it all the time. It is the refrain of parenting. But not a lot of people say much about what that actually looks like.
Well… here it is.
So will I go camping next summer? Yes. And all the summers after that. Will I ever enjoy camping with my children? It’s possible, but unlikely. But that isn’t the point, is it?