In my humble opinion, of all the sacrifices that I have been asked to make as a mother, none seems so high as the annual weekend camping trip. Beyond the stretch marks, sleepless nights and play dates gone horribly wrong, I place camping at the pinnacle of my “What-not-to-do” list. It’s not that I don’t have a healthy appreciation of the beauty of nature, because I do (I adore beaches). It’s certainly not that I don’t need to unplug every now and then—because I absolutely do. And I love precious time with my family. I just really, really, really don’t like camping.
I can support my position with a number of facts. For one thing, there are way too many challenging decisions that one has to make while camping. Decisions such as:
“If I leave my shoes outside the tent overnight, will I find a creature in them next time I have to put them on”? I know for a fact that I would never recover from stepping into my rain boots and squashing a toad.
“What is the right amount of water to drink before I go to sleep?” The angst of trying to maximize my chances of a non-parched night, while minimizing the odds of having to hastily scramble out of my sleeping bag at 3am, get dressed, grab a flashlight, inspect shoes, put them on and trek through the jungle sounds to the outhouse can be pretty intense.
Despite my angst and strong feelings of opposition, there is typically a weekend each year in April when I find myself en-route to rustic Arkansas for a weekend date with nature. This trip is always the culmination of a few weeks of earnest pleas from my children and some cajoling from my husband. One year it was my birthday present to my daughter who is particularly persistent and adept in negotiation skills. The 6-hour commute to camp is never un-eventful. I have a collection of memories made as we meandered our way through rural hills. Memories such as: dogs throwing-up, children throwing up, cars getting stuck in mud-pits and resulting midnight hikes hauling camping gear.
Aside from the afore mentioned memories and concerns, generally speaking, I also believe that while camping one spends way too much time trying to get warm, get cool, stay dry, avoid bites and stay clear of suspicious looking plants that have the potential to leave me doused in Calamine lotion for a week.
I had a light bulb moment recently, a plausible explanation for my annual date with misery. Is it possible that it is because I hate camping so much that I keep going back for more? Surely, this sacrifice on my part provides an unparalleled declaration of love for my husband and kids?! Then I had another epiphany (more disturbing than the first): My husband and kids really don’t recognize our camping excursions to be a sacrifice on my part—at least not to the same degree that I do. I have been speaking a different dialect. I had been using language such as: “I’d rather not” or making suggestions like: “Why don’t you make it a fun bonding Daddy/Son/Daughter tradition”? I see clearly now that I need to paint a more accurate picture. For my husband it is possible that the equivalent would be a 3-day weekend spent shopping for shoes. At the end of weekend, we would have purchased nothing. Oh, and it’s Superbowl weekend. Or maybe at the end of the weekend we had purchased multiple pairs of what appear to be the same (over-priced) pair of shoes. For my kids, I could describe a perfect spring weekend spent reading the dictionary. Reading the dictionary from cover-to-cover while passing up on soccer games, sleep-overs and birthday parties.
Yes, my strategy this year is to speak the same language as my loved ones. Camping is my portrayal of love.