Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Long Overdue Experience

Kathy and I have been together for over ten years (married over nine), and never in that time had we gone camping together. About six years ago we even bought a tent, having the best of intentions. About three years ago, we made tentative plans to go camping with friends, but it didn't happen. Tom and Anna have asked us a few times to join them, and we never had. Finally this past weekend, we went camping with a group of beer-loving folk in the general area.

Initially we had planned to bring the dogs with us, but given all that we'd be bringing, we decided there really wasn't space for them in the car, so we reluctantly decided to leave them home (the fact that we're bringing them on a one-week vacation starting this upcoming weekend made it an easier decision to make).

We shared a site with our friends Margie and Chris, two veteran campers who drove up from around Raleigh to hang with us for the weekend. They tended to the fire, but otherwise I think we carried our weight at the site. We didn't need them to help set up our tent or anything, and in fact we pretty much took care of our stuff just fine. We didn't do anything too adventurous with the food, but hey -- it was our first time. At least we got a better sense of what would work and what wouldn't.

Emelia had a good time even though she was the only kid there. She enjoyed a nature show on owls (when the ranger asked what she was holding, before the ranger called on one of the kids with their hands up, Emelia called out, "Owl"), and we had to caution her not to go up to the multitude of deer at the campground. Many of the adults we were with were happy to engage Emelia in conversation, and she was delighted with all the attention. Our one hike with her was when we were leaving today -- we learned about a 1.6-mile hike that would take us to a great mountain view. Good thing we sought a short hike, because Emelia wasn't interested in walking any. Kathy carried Emelia on her back for about 2/3 of the way, and I carried her all but about 50 feet of the rest of the way. Getting Emelia to walk even that far was a rather arduous process, largely because she was overtired.

For the weekend, she slept way less than she normally does, and we spent too much time trying to get her to sleep. She finally went down around 11pm on Friday night, compared with her roughly 7:15 bedtime at home (tonight she was asleep before 7 given how tired she is). Between all the stimulation, the altogether new environment, and being asked to sleep in a tent for the first time, I suppose it's no surprise she had trouble. Saturday she fell asleep for her nap while being carried on Kathy's back, but even then it was only for about an hour (compared with 2+ at home). That night she got to sleep at around 9pm, after screaming herself beyond exhaustion. The people across from us (not in our group) said we reminded them of themselves twenty years earlier when their kids would do the same thing. They learned to let the kids stay up while camping, that they'd eventually exhaust themselves and in the meantime, the adults shouldn't ruin their time worrying about the kids getting enough sleep. I think it's advice we might follow next time.

And yes, I said next time -- both Kathy and I enjoyed ourselves enough that we'd like to go camping again, even regularly. I'm not sure we'll reach "regularly," but I feel confident that the next time will be sooner than ten years from now.

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Before I end this post, I just wanted to comment on the obvious, that the birth of Emelia has made travel quite a bit more complicated. There are so many things that go into planning and prepping a trip with a small child that aren't an issue when the travelers are self-sufficient adults. Despite this change, my trip planning essentially hasn't changed a bit -- I take care of myself, and leave Kathy with having to take care of Emelia as well as herself. Part of this is due to the fact that Kathy is home with Emelia on Thursday and Friday, when most trip prep happens, but it's also because I'm lazy about this aspect of parenting. Kathy occasionally grumbles about this (justifiably), but generally does it graciously, and always does it splendidly. So I wanted to take this corner of this blogpost to publicly acknowledge all she does to make travel great. The fact that she's mostly a homebody who'd just as soon hang out at home for leisure, while I'm the one who would travel more if time and money allowed it, makes what she does all the more wonderful. This is just one more reason why I consider myself a very lucky man. Thank you Kathy.