I never went camping as a child. I grew up in one of the 5 boroughs of New York City to parents whose idea of being outdoorsy is eating dinner on the patio. I suppose that isn’t fair. We did spend a week in the Catskills every summer, but we stayed at a resort where we played bocce and bet on video horse races. It was great fun, but not exactly a back-to-nature experience in the mountains.
As an adult, I have somehow grown into a very outdoorsy person, despite my upbringing. I love to hike and have gone camping many times. I’ve always camped with people who are much more experienced than I am. I have to admit I have always let them take the lead, and I was pretty much just along for the ride. So, New Experience #25 was something new for me, too. I was finally taking charge of my camping experience.
When I told the children we were going to participate in the Great American Backyard Campout, an event sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, they were beyond thrilled. They were literally jumping up and down as I tried to explain how camping at their grandparents house would go. We were going to camp in my parents backyard for two reasons. First of all, I live in a townhouse, so I don’t actually have a backyard. Second, I was a little worried that one of my kids might change their minds about camping in the middle of the night. If someone had second thoughts, one child could go inside to sleep while I stayed outside with the other, but I didn’t let the kids know about that option.
As I packed up the car with our sleeping bags and the brand-spanking-new tent I bought at a discount store, Leah kept coming out with bag after bag and toy after toy. She told me her babies were camping with us. She needed to pack their extra clothes, some toys for them to play with, their blankets so they wouldn’t be scared, some food for them to eat, and pretend band-aids in case they got hurt. I was going to tell Leah she didn’t need that much stuff, but I was impressed with her thought process. She was a more prepared mama than I was!
Once we got to my parents’ backyard, the kids’ played with the binoculars we brought and looked for interesting birds and bugs. I started to set up the tent and was nervous. What if I couldn’t do it? Well, nothing to fear. The Coleman Evanston 4 tent was so easy to put up. I could become a spokesperson for Coleman. I have never put up a tent before in my life, and I had it ready to go in 10 minutes. I felt so proud of myself, and the kids were excited to get inside. Luke helped me set up the sleeping bags while Leah arranged her babies and all of her belongings. We snuggled for a little while, just because it was so cozy.
We took a flashlight walk and caught fireflies. Luke and Leah were really hoping to see more wildlife, but it was far too noisy for that. One of my parents neighbors was having a high school graduation party and we had to listen to a mediocre-to-downright-awful teenage band for a few hours. Around 9:00, it was finally quiet and dark enough to sleep, but the kids weren’t tired yet. We played cards by the light of our lantern, which the kids loved, and read some stories before bed. Leah snuggled right next to me. We all slept better than I expected we would. I think we might be ready to graduate to “real” camping soon!
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