Thane has gone camping every summer of his life. He was born in October, and by the time his first May rolled around I decided that it was time to go camping! (As an aside: why did we NOT go camping for the 5 summers between graduation and having kids? What was I so busy doing? It’s a mystery.) I trundled the kids (and the pack ‘n’ play!) into a car and by gum, we went camping. His first camping trip was at nine months. We went camping when he was 18 months. And 27 months.
Last summer, my dearest husband and I began to wonder if we even liked camping (the answer being – we definitely like it by ourselves!) It was tough camping with such little kids. And as much as I love camping, it did require toughing. At 9 months, Thane wasn’t – you know – sleeping through the night. When he was 1, he would wake up at 5:45 hungry and bored. At 2, he still so desperately needed his naps and had such a miserable time taking them. There were the diapers. The constant vigilance. The sleep deprivation. The whining. By an objective measure, it wasn’t really… you know… fun. The kids were too small to swim unless we were physically holding them. Too small to go boating. Too small to go fishing. Too small to go for more than a mile-long leisurely hike. Too small to make them do the dishes. Sometimes camping was refreshing, or satisfying. There were glorious moments. It broke the tedium of every day the same. But by the time it was pack-up time, we were really ready to go.
But I had faith that if I just toughed it out, camping with my sons would eventually be awesome. I mean, I love camping. I love the tent. I love the smell of woodsmoke. I love the call of the loons on the lake. I love lying in a dewing field watching the stars come out. I love finding sticks for kindling, swimming, hiking, reading and discovering cool spiderwebs. I mean, isn’t this what having boys is supposed to be all about, this ecstasy of outdoorsiness? All I had to do was get to that moment – that trip – where it all clicked.
And folks, I’m here to tell you THIS WAS IT. We went camping this last weekend, and it was awesome. The weather was awesome. By dint of making reservations in January, we had a truly amazing camping spot. And the kids were so fun. We skipped naps. The kids slept until 8 am. They paid attention to our “how to make a fire” lecture. They entertained themselves. Grey rode a bike without training wheels for the first time. He read a chapter book. Thane used his “playing quietly by himself” skills. Grey swam without flotation devices, made friends, and periodically wandered back to the campsite to check in. Thane went the entire weekend without any potty training accidents. My sons summitted their first mountain (Black Cap Peak). It was just great. I sat by the fire, watching the water, listening to the loons on the lake, hanging out contentedly at the beach, and eating all the s’mores myself because for some reason my crazy children don’t like s’mores.
I’m sure not every camping trip will be this awesome, but this one really was. So for those of you wondering when it’s a good age to bring your kids camping… I vote for 3 and 9 months.