Slap-happy Campers

By Megan

We took the kids camping for the first time last weekend. I’d never really camped before, so it was all new to me, too. One thing I learned was that there is a LOT of zipping involved in camping.

And not much sleeping.

The first night in camp, Peabody’d been in bed for about 3 hours when Al and I quietly zipped into our fabric abode and attempted to sneak into “bed.” Alas, a rubber air mattress in a 6-person tent is about as subtle as a whoopee cushion in a tin coffee can, so as we carefully squeaked and pooted our way into the sack, the boy woke up and stood to peer over the edge of his pack-n-play at us.

“Mama,” he pointed out astutely, and then “Dada.”

“Hi buddy. It’s still night-night time. Lie down and go back to sleep.”

And he lay back down. And we scrunched around as silently as possible and had just gotten settled into sleeping position when a curly little head rose up again over the side of the Graco and a little voice said, “Mama. Dada. Nigh-nigh.”

“Yes,” I whispered. “We’re all going night-night now. Lie down, baby.”

And he did. And I drifted slowly off to that pre-sleep dreamy state, floating towards oblivion under the stars, a fan quietly spilling cool air over me through the tent flap, crickets chirping peacefully, Al’s breaths already slow and steady and,

“Mama? Yaya.” (Yaya = Outside.) I looked at him and he was standing up pointing out his “window.”

“Goodnight Peabody.”

“CAH!” he pointed again, to our cars parked and glistening under a dim streetlight in the distance.

And I realized then: This was confusing. We don’t sleep outside where you can see cars, normally.

And I thought to myself, Well, I’ll just explain it to him. Then he’ll get it and go to sleep.

“Yes, Matthew, we’re outside. We’re CAMPING. Camping means you sleep outside, where there are cars and trees and other outside things. But see, we’re all in our beds and it’s night-night time and Mama and Daddy are here sleeping, so you can sleep here too. Okay?”

“Nigh-nigh,” he puzzled to himself.

“Yes. Night night. Lie down.” And I climbed off the giant whoopee cushion to help him lie down, then covered him with his blanket.

I squelched back into bed and scrunched around, shooting Al up into the air a full foot with every motion as I tried to get comfortable again. Finally I dozed, briefly, but then woke with a start when I heard Peabody stand up again, and prop his arms on the side of his bed to look over at me, smiling.

“Mama!” he grinned. Fully awake now. Al snored beside me.

Sigh. Go ‘sleep, baby.”



“Nooo,” he decided. “Want yaya.”

“Can’t go outside. Night-night time. Lie down now and go to sleep.”

And on and on it went. He’d talk, I’d ignore him for awhile then get up and settle him down and doze off myself, and he’d talk again. Lather, rinse, repeat for three and a half more hours, until 4 AM.

“Mama. Want eat. Want noo-noos.” (noodles)


“NOOOOOO. Want noo-noos! Pweeeee?” (Please?)

Sigh. Cracker?” I offered.

“YAY! GACKA!” (Whatever, lady, I’m hungry.)

So I grabbed a lantern and my flip-flops and unzipped/re-zipped my way out of two tent flaps (our tent has a “front porch” that is “screened in,” which is very posh and very fancy and incidentally I will now hate zippers for the rest of my life.) and headed over to the “kitchen” where we had all of our non-perishable food hanging from a hook in a zippered “pantry” and I rooted around for what felt like an hour, knowing full well that everyone in camp was now awake and lying on their own respective whoopee cushions picturing the biggest raccoon in the world standing on its hind legs working a zipper around a 4 foot rectangular hanging “pantry” to get at the Cap’n Crunch we were supposed to be having for breakfast the next morning, and I finally found a package of graham crackers, which I loudly opened, because there’s no other way to open graham crackers, and I re-zipped the “pantry” and stalked back with my lantern to the tent, whereupon I realized mother nature had begun her call, so I took a detour past my tent to the “Luggable Loo” (yes!), which is the girls’ only latrine for our campsite, and I un-zipped/re-zipped myself in and sat down on the “can” and do what needed to be done.

All the while I could hear Peabody’s faint calls over the crickets and the fan, “Mama? Maaaaa-maaaaa? Gacka?” (For the love of MIKE woman, how long does it take to get a boy a cracker?)

Finally I climbed back inside the tent after, wait, one-two-three-four, FOUR more zippers and I rattled out a graham cracker, pulled Peabody from his bed and lay him between Al and me on our bed, where I watched the child eat gacka after gacka, quietly humming and looking around at the inside of the tent and smiling charmingly at me. Finally, three gackas in, he started to go quiet and I could see him, his arm poised in mid-air, gacka in hand, begin to nod off.

Then I held pretty much my breath and didn’t move a muscle for an hour until he I knew was good and asleep. And then the sun rose and everybody woke up at 6:30 and looked around for giant raccoon tracks, and that was that for sleeping – we were up for good. I get a little bit punchy just thinking about the rest of that day.

Needless to say, Peabody and I drove home from camp and slept in our own beds on Night 2 of camping and Al took him on Night 3. It was only 45 minutes to home, and totally worth the drive to sleep without interruption for 9 or 10 hours and go potty in a real flushing toilet.


7 Responses to Slap-happy Campers
  1. Melissa
    August 31, 2010 | 2:06 am

    That was THE BEST camping story EVER!!
    I know we camped alot when I was a kid, but I don’t know how old I was when we started. I can assure you, and all the rest of the planet, though, that my mother would have been NOWHERE NEAR as patient as you were!
    Considering how out-of-sorts Mookie was sleeping in a pack-n-play at Grandpa’s house, I know for darn sure she’da been asking for noodles and crackers and telling me which squawks were owls and which squeaks were raccoons and I wouldn’t have gotten one minute of sleep if we’d gone camping, either! :o)
    Wait another, 5-10 years, and it’ll be fun. :o)

  2. nicole
    August 31, 2010 | 9:31 am

    We love camping! But we also camp less than 30 minutes from our house so that one of us can go home with toddlers/babies if necessary. I have a rule about facilities being required because I don’t do outdoor bathroom stuff, except #1 in the middle of the night. Camping is definitely not about sleeping, at least with little ones, but it is so fun (and cheap!). We keep a journal in our camping box and always write where we are camping and who is there and what we eat and so on. I love looking back on it.

  3. Mary
    August 31, 2010 | 10:04 am

    We love camping too (although so far have only braved the overnight sort, though we did do a mini canoe trip)

    I think the secret of a good night’s sleep is to go to bed all at the same time! At least, this has is what’s been working for us 🙂

  4. Carrie
    August 31, 2010 | 9:22 pm

    Oh my word exhausted!!!! I can’t imagine!!! I’m sorry you guys had such a rough night, but I’m glad you were able to work it out and enjoy the rest of your trip! 🙂

  5. Krista
    September 1, 2010 | 1:16 am

    Oh I am so laughing at this! We took our son camping at 18 months, no problem as he went to bed early and slept right through the night. It was the camping at 28 months that was murder. Being patted on the face by a child (too big for a pack and play) at 3am and then not having him go back to sleep for an hour. Then being awakened by the local orchard workers and their mariachi music at 6am. Oh, and did I mention I was also 6 weeks pregnant at the time? 🙂
    We went home and slept in our own bed that night and came back in the morning!

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