We are in Canadian Tire shopping for camping supplies. Alice sits in the cart. She is sharing a sensory-overload tantrum with Jane and Henry.

Alice: Want tent!

Me: (scanning the shelves of sleeping bags) Hold on...


Jane throws something into the cart.

Jane: I want this.

Me: What is it?

Jane: Um. I don't know.

I pick it up. I have no idea what it is, but it has a pink zipper. I put it back on the shelf.

Jane: But I NEED IT!

Me: You don't even know what it is! Hold on, guys. I just need to pick out a couple sleeping bags...

Alice: Want tent! Want tent! WANT TENT!

Me: We already have a tent. We have two tents. They're at home.

She starts crying.

Alice: Want tent.

I pat her on the back and try to discern the difference between the 18-dollar sleeping bag and the 38-dollar one.

Me: It's OK, sweetie. (muttering) This doesn't look like it would be warm enough....

Henry: I want this one.

He's holding a shiny brick of nylon in a hockey motif. Strapped to one side is a crappy water bottle. Strapped to the other is a crappy flashlight.

Me: We're not getting that.


Me: (holding up the 18-dollar bag, muttering) Cold-weather rating, 0-5 degrees. Length: 75 inches. (to Henry) How tall are you? In inches?



Hours of screaming later. We have put up two tents in our yard. We have inflated Erin and Alice's air mattress. We have laid out our sleeping pads and bags. We have eaten supper and put on our PJs.

I am in a fowl mood and am snapping at everyone. I am questioning the wisdom of our great backyard camp out. I walk into the kitchen to find a mess of construction paper scraps and tape.

Me: What is this.

Henry: Badges!

Me: What badges?

He brings me to the table. He's drawn little pictures on tiny squares of construction paper.

Henry: This triangle one is my Camping In A Tent badge. This toothbrush is my Brushing My Teeth badge. This one with a guy beside a triangle is my Helping Dad Build The Tent badge.

My grumpy mood melts.

Me: These are wonderful. What's this one?

I hold up a badge with a picture of three swooping lines.

Henry: I made that for Jane. It's her Always Tripping And Falling Over badge.


Later still. The windy evening scared Alice, so she and Erin are inside the house, cuddled up in a cozy bed. I lay in my sleeping bag between sleeping Henry and sleeping Jane. I put down my book, as the sky is now too dim to read by.

I put my hands behind my head and relax for the first time this evening. The kids lightly snore beside me. The tent flaps in the wind. It starts to rain.

It is a lovely rain -- pit-pit patting on the fly.

This is alright, I think. This is OK.


Craig Wesley said...

*What* a marvellous and, for me anyway, steeply nostalgic piece. I pity any who haven't joyfully shared discomfort in the effort to achieve a family camping expedition.

Unknown said...

Thank-you, Craig. Very nice of you to say.

This post was getting long (I hate when they do that), but I wanted to write that I resorted to a parenting technique I normally loath... I bought my way out of the Canadian Tire. I bargained with the kids that if they give me 3 seconds of peace to pick a sleeping bag, I'd get them each a little flashlight.

We found some $3 ones that you pump-charge with a little handle on the side, no batteries required. What I didn't realize was the pumping sound was specially designed by an engineer to be the most grating noise you can imagine.

I thought I'd heard the last of them when we entered the tent. Jane was drifting off to sleep, when suddenly, from somewhere deep inside Henry's sleeping bag came the



Me: If I hear that sound again, you are sleeping outside.

Misty said...

I love camping, but it seems my memories of it are from the point of view of a kid. The parent part went highly unnoticed until I became one.
We camp each year to allow our boys the same memories and hope the grand kids will get them back for us.