We went to Family Camp in the mountains over Memorial Weekend.
Kids: Camping is SO FUN! You get to sleep in a sleeping bag in a tent.
My husband and me: Camping is a pain in the ass! Putting up a large tent by the light of the car headlights and a single flashlight held by a wildly excited eight year old is a test in patience. We utter curses under our breath at the tent and each other as we try to appear to other campers, who arrived much earlier and are shouting out greetings as they walk by, like we are already having fun.
Kids: This tent is so COOL! It's huge!
Us: This tent is big! But as soon as we move five sleeping bags, all our clothes, pillows, and shoes in, it is completely full. This thin nylon house is neither warm nor does it muffle any sound. We can hear the bullfrogs, dropping leaves, the footsteps and conversations of other campers walking by, and they can hear our children belching.
Kids: I slept great but I was a little cold.
Us: Sleep? I was so cold that even though I had to pee pretty bad sometime in the middle of the night, I didn't even consider getting out of my sleeping bag. Sometime later, my husband and I were awoken (if we were asleep) by the distinctive crunching of sticks and leaves just outside our tent. Pause. Silence. Then slurping and licking noises. "Honey there is a bear." "I know. It's out there and we're in here. I'm not going out there to chase it away." Slurp, slurp. "It's really close." I try my best to relax enough to fall asleep, even though there is a bear nearby, separated only by a thin piece of nylon. I'm freezing cold, and I really really have to pee. Then just before it gets light, we hear the gentle tapping of a light rain on our tent. By morning I'm pretty exhausted.
Kids (shouting): Look at the lake! Is it breakfast time?? What's for breakfast? Can we go out in a boat? Can we go fishing? Can we play basketball?
Me (the only one who can't just take a pee right outside the tent): Where are my shoes? I trudge up to the bathrooms and I'm glad to note that it is at least 20 degrees warmer inside the unheated bathroom than it was in my tent.
Kids: See ya!
Us: Hey isn't this Family Camp? Yes, but we know that we will hardly see our children again until it is time to go home. They quickly join up with friends and disappear for hours at a time. We will spot them maybe during meal times.
It starts to heavily mist, or maybe sprinkle. My husband, who has been working so hard that he really should be on vacation at a spa resort, climbs back into his sleeping bag and doesn't emerge for several hours. I head to the craft shack, where I gamely try to sit and paint a wooden frame with a picture of our tent and a bear. My hands are soon too cold to do much. I wander back to the tent to check on my husband, who looks at me and says, "Just give me the word and we can be packed up and out of here in an hour."
My eight year old discovers the joys of the walkie-talkies I brought. Although there is no cell phone coverage at camp, I am paged every five minutes by my son who is less than a hundred feet away but wants me to know that he found a really cool stick.
In the dining hall I hear that a bear broke into a bearbox in the night and ate all the food out of it, including a watermelon. Ah ha! The slurping all of a sudden makes sense.
After lunch, my husband and I decide to go on a walk around the lake in order to warm up. It is a two-mile walk. My youngest son is in a boat on the lake fishing. I call him every five minutes on the walkie-talkie to tell him where we are and that I found a really cool rock.
The kids were pretty warm during the day because when they woke up, they just put on all their clothes over their footed fleece pajamas.
The sprinkles turn into rain. Someone says, "It's almost snowing!"
We come to the realization that we shouldn't sleep in the tent that night. We don't want to be cold again, and we really don't want to be cold AND wet. We send our two oldest boys to sleep with other families who were intelligent enough to book cabins rather than a tent site, and we ask around and are very kindly offered a place to sleep in a friend's cabin. They have their own two children sleep in other family's cabins so there is room for us.
I find out in the morning that my middle son stayed up playing cards until 1:30 am. Obviously, he knew where the party was.
In the morning my husband goes to take down our tent, which is very wet because it is now steadily raining. He comes back to the mess hall with freezing hands. We have to leave the mess hall though, because we have to eat in two shifts since the weather is so band and we can't all fit in the hall at the same time. Luckily, there is a room nearby called the library where we are to wait for our shift. The library turns out to be a nursery room with fake wood panelling, a short table and tiny chairs, and a mesh climbing structure in the middle. Once this small room is filled with adults and children, it is very similar to being in Chuck E Cheese. My husband disappears. I find him packing the car.
We give the kids the news: after dinner and square-dancing we are heading home. The boys are absolutely indignant. How could we make them leave early?
For some reason, our children think that going to Family Camp is by far the best trip they could ever go on. Better even than Hawaii. I don't get it, but after some extensive questioning, I think I have figured out why they like Camp so much. They like the freedom of running around with friends, and they like the sense of community. They know nearly every person at the camp and have known many of the families since they were in preschool. They like all the traditions of camp (most of which were cancelled due to weather), the s'mores, the campfire songs and skits, the fishing, hiking, swimming, popsicle stick boat races and the pajama breakfast, the conga line dancing to "All Night Party." As for me, I enjoy spending some quality time with people I don't get to see very often. I enjoy seeing children I've known since they were little preschoolers turn into teenagers. I enjoy being away from the cell phone and computer and I enjoy being outside. My husband would enjoy these things too if he was not so desperately in need of a genuine relaxing vacation.
This year, it was a little too much like roughing it and not much was relaxing. Each year we waver about going back to Family Camp. To be honest, we really do it for the boys. If we go next year, we are ditching that stupid tent and staying in a cabin.
On our drive home in the middle of the night, through 38 degree weather, fog, rain and hail, they boys slept and my husband and I talked and I read to him as he drove. There was no holiday traffic and it was probably one of the most relaxing parts of our trip.