Photo by Will Africano on Unsplash
“Daddy, we want to go camping!”
“Well, okay, I don’t know if the parks are open yet, I’ll see what I can…”
“No daddy! We want to go camping in the front yard.”
“Oh, okay. Go find the tent.”
I knew my wife wasn’t going to be into this. She likes comfort. It was all up to me. A few minutes later my youngest daughter came running down the stairs with her tiny pop up tent.
“No, not that one.”
“Why not? It’s my tent.”
“But I won’t fit in it.”
“You’re coming with?”
The news was like an injection of pure energy. The girls started doing circles around each other to burn off all the electricity that had begun to course through their bodies. My wife stood there laughing. The world was spinning out of control.
“Go find the big tent.”
We got the big tent down from storage and took it outside.
“Can I help you put it up daddy?”
Suddenly there were tiny hands pulling every corner of the tent in a different direction. The little bag of stakes spilled onto the grass. The bag of tent poles was inverted and all the poles clattered down into a tangled mess.
“Hold on, hold on, hold on!” Both the girls froze and look up at me. “You,” I said, pointing at my eldest daughter, “assemble the poles.” I pointed to my youngest daughter, “You can help me lay out the tent.”
Instantly they both dove back in, chaos resumed. Somehow we got the tent stretched out and staked. My eldest was having trouble with the poles. Every time she put one together, the other ones seem to separate.
“You have to solve the cruel riddle of tent poles,” I said, “you can only push.”
Another important life lesson from daddy.
It is a surprisingly hard lesson for kids to learn, she kept dismantling the poles but eventually she got them together. We threaded the pole through the tent sleeve. Every time progress was halted, one of the girls would start pulling on the tent pole causing it to become disconnected within the sleeve.”
“Don’t…” sigh “…okay, let me put this together, hold on a second.”
Amazingly, improbably, the tent slowly began to rise from the earth.
“Hooray, we did it! Can we go inside! This is so cool!”
The girls unzipped the door and started running around inside. That’s when I noticed my wife was lurking over on the porch laughing furiously into her elbow.
“Help me with these mattresses,” I said. She nodded and came over, still laughing.
We’d switched out mattresses a few weeks ago and the old ones still sat in the hallway. There’s something about wrestling with a queen sized mattress that leaves a man exhausted. Somehow we got it into the tent.
“Are you sure you don’t want to camp with us? This isn’t exactly roughing it.”
My wife’s plan was to crash on the living room couch in case the kids had to come in during the night for any reason. She was back up.
Tent prepared, we went back inside. The kids could hardly handle it. They were bouncing off the walls ready to go camping.
“This is the best day ever!”
They have a lot of ‘best days ever.’ That pleases me.
They sat there watching the clock like kids on the last day of school. Never have they been so eager to go to bed. When the time finally came, they let out a squeal of triumph. The procession marched outside and I kissed my wife good night wondering what I had gotten myself into.
“Good luck,” she said with a smirk.
We climbed in and zipped the door closed. It was like being sealed in with a swarm of bees. The girls did laps around the interior.
“This is so awesome!”
Eventually they settled down. We went through our evening ritual of reading, and by then the stars had come out. Our tent has a screen window, and they looked up with awe and admiration. Then, just like nothing, they were asleep.
Even with mattresses, it’s impossible to get a good night’s rest in a tent. In the morning my eldest daughter and I woke up creaky and grumbling. For some reason, my youngest was pumped up like she was the starting quarterback on super bowl Sunday.
“Daddy, do you want to do this? Do you want to do that? Do you want to come over here? C’mon daddy! Go, go, go!”
“Um,” I said blearily, “you’ve got to give me a second to wake up.”
One second later she was ready to go again.
The afterglow of camping lasted until about noon. The kids were euphoric. “That was the best night ever!” Suddenly, about noon, they started to get grumpy and I realized they were totally exhausted. Oh, that explained my youngest daughter’s inhuman energy.
“Why don’t you lay down for a second?”
“But I don’t want to sleep!”
“Okay, you don’t have to sleep, just lay down and close your eyes and relax for a minute.”
“Okay,” she said reluctantly.
Twenty six seconds later, she was snoring. The older one took a nap too. I shuffled downstairs to find my wife laughing again.
“Good job daddy, are you ready for another night of camping?”
“I thought tonight was your turn.”
“Nope, camping with the girls is your job.”
Now it was my turn to laugh. She was right, it was my job, and the girls were right too, camping with the kids is the best night ever!