Whoever coined the term “happy camper!” clearly has never camped with a toddler.
I’m not trying to be a downer here. Nobody likes a downer. Yes, there are lots of amazing moments to be had, but “happy!” probably isn’t the most accurate descriptive word for the experience… maybe something more like “coping” or “marginally insane”.
This week we went on a spontaneous camping trip to Devon, on a romantic whim and with a carload full of Nanny and Granddads camping gear. We are not expert campers, but they are, so we felt at least capable by association. Granddad provided the barbeque (we forgot matches), the torches (we neglected to buy batteries), and the pop up army-style beds (we overlooked pillows).
We considered carefully which foods would be easy to cook tent side, and purchased readymade soups (no saucepan), a few cans of preserves (no can opener), and finally 10 pork chops, 12 sausages, 6 chicken fillets and 8 burgers (and a single ice pack to keep them all fresh- even my carnivorous husband cannot eat this much meat in one day). For the little one I prepared a whole goody bag full of Ella’s pouches, apple sauce, rice cakes and his favorite foods: fruit, peanut butter, cheese, and butternut squash. I was quite proud of this little assortment as I knew he would love it! Pity I forgot the whole thing at home in the fridge. Yeahhhhhh, that happened.
I know what you’re thinking. We are so good at this camping thing it’s kind of intimidating, right? Well don’t worry, it’s not all awesome. In fact after the first 24 hours my husband and I were casually discussing how we had pre-paid for three nights camping, both dancing around the subject and not wanting to be the first to admit that we wanted to leave TOMORROW. NOW. ANYTIME SOON.
Finley was on a full-blown winge session that had begun on the sweaty car journey, lasted through a heavingly-crowded beach day, and persisted all night long. He was mostly intent on running into stranger’s tents, touching their hot barbeques and stealing their children’s toys. He insisted on walking everywhere himself, meaning toilet visits took 30 minutes (which is far too long when you’ve recently given birth and are genuinely concerned about bladder control) and were topped off by him sticking his hands in the loo and scrubbing my feet with the bog brush. At night, the fact that he could see us in the tent (he is used to his own room) inspired him to show us his tonsils and scream the toddler alphabet while our poor neighbors tried to sleep. At 5am it got so bad that we swooped him straight into the car in his pj’s, drove to the bottom of a hill and climbed to the top of it with breakfast on our backs. If you are impressed by that, don’t be. It was windy and he cried the whole time. We took photos, I am laughing in most of them! Laughing because it was utterly ridiculous, and I was deliriously close to tears.
Breakfast on the hill didn’t happen. But something else did. Seeking shelter from the wind, we wandered towards the sea and ended up having our picnic breakfast at the base of a sea wall at low tide. It was a little bit gorgeous. The sun came up and a new day began.
The light began to creep in. We ate pasties and played silly games all three of us in the front of the car just for the air con. Finley said a few new words and imitated our behaviors in ways that were so bloody wonderful I could almost feel my chest imploding with adoration. I had a brief chat with another mum on the campsite, first about the weather and then quickly about the inferno that is camping with toddlers, and felt comforted by her similar feelings. We borrowed a can opener, and rented surf boards. I let my legs go hairy and forgot about make-up for a while. We stayed all three long and eventful nights, and Finley never successfully reached a single hot barbeque.
Camping with babies is a little bit similar to the experience of having babies itself. First, you sink under the wretched reality and wonder what you have done, then you learn to cope (if even just barely), and then soon enough you find yourself planning the next one.
…I heard St. Ives is lovely. ♥