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Camping with Babies – Who Said This Was a Good Idea?

Dan Thompson

For years I’ve been trying to convince Dan that camping is The Best Thing Ever.  Time and time again, I strike out.  There was the rainy camping trip, the camping trip with the screaming baby and the ear infection, and the post-apocalyptic camp ground.  After this past weekend, we can add – the camping trip with the coughing, screaming baby and the petechia.  Is it possible to have a great camping trip with a baby?  I’m thinking the answer is – No.

I planned the trip for weeks.  For days I packed.  We were heading out for two days of camping joy with a big group of friends and I was pumped.  I had thought of everything.  As we drove toward Alta Lake, I grew more and more confident that the weekend would be perfect.  Remember.  The protagonist can never hear the ominous background music.

We got in pretty late Thursday night and set up our tent and campsite while the kids ran around crazy in the dark.  Then we turned in.  And that’s when things went downhill.  The camp was full of other people, mostly kids, running around and having a great time and Wanda wanted in on the fun.  She was exhausted and crabby and it was way past bedtime but she wanted IN ON THE FUN!

She ran laps around her pack-n-play inside the tent, yelling, “HI!” every time someone passed by our tent.  She’d here a voice and, “HI!”  A flashlight would illuminate the tent wall beside her bed and, “HI!”  It was desperate, like she was pleading for them to take her with them.

When all the noise died down, she eventually fell asleep but it was restless and accompanied by a frequent cough, which kept me awake.  At about 2:30 am she awoke confused and inconsolable.  We were in the dark, in the cold and she would have none of it.  No amount of singing the “BBCs” song, now amount of cuddling or blankets would calm her down.  And we were in a tent clustered with twenty other tents in a field.

So as not to keep everyone else awake with her, ahem, intense vocalizing, I took her to the van where she coughed and cried off and on until the sun came up.  It starts rising around 4:30 in Chelan, Washington.  By 5:30, she was up for the day with less than four hours of sleep under her little belt.  I probably had one hour.

One hour is not enough of the sleep, not at all enough.  Despite the awful night, we had a great day at the lake, fishing, swimming, boating and frying mom’s skin because mom was too busy putting sunscreen on everyone else to remember herself.  As the day wore on, I almost convinced myself to see the trip through and stay a second night.  Almost, but not quite.

So I packed up our ten tons of camping gear, the unused s’mores supplies, the bedding and water toys, the hatchet.  As if trying to reaffirm that we made the right choice heading home early, Wanda coughed and screamed all the way home, even in her sleep.  Four hours of pure joy.

When Dan took her to the pediatrician the next day, they said there was nothing wrong with her, except of course that she was rapidly approaching the age of two and her neck and chest were covered in petechia (burst blood vessels) from coughing and straining against the car seat straps.

The older kids did great so there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.  Do you go camping with kids?  How old is old enough?  By “old enough,” I mean old enough to sleep.  Ever.  Camping, hiking and survival skills are not a must for me.  Sleeping skills are.

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