By Jen Kinney of jenkinney.com
Summer. The time of year when you emerge from the darkness of winter into the hope of longer days and sunshine. It’s also the time of year when hibernation guilt makes you do crazy things like join gyms and pretend to be more outdoorsy than you are.
Very soon, friends will start posting photos of their summer vacations. Smiling faces, umbrella-adorned drinks, nasty feet blocking beautiful views of water, and a whole host of other vacation-related imagery will fill your social media feeds. The thing that surprises me year after year is the sheer number of people who camp with their small children and try to make it look like they’re having fun. I like to refer to this phenomenon as the happy-camper-zombie-apocalypse. Behind the camera these parents are suffering from sleep deprivation, bug bites, back pain, and a case of serious regret, but their photos paint a deceptively different story.
Don’t fall for the snapshots of cute grins, pudgy s’mores-filled hands and campfires. Stay vigilant, and remember what Instagram filters have done for you. If the lark filter can take you from looking like an influenza-stricken woman from the middle ages to a radiant beauty who hasn’t aged since high school, don’t be surprised when the Nashville filter over a tent in the middle of nowhere has you longing for a by-gone era of camping trips you never took as the person in charge.
Think of it like the yoga pants I’m wearing for the fifth day in a row. They may give the impression that I am taking life one barre class and pressed juice at a time. But the truth is, as soon as I get home, I’ll be crouched in my closet, stress-snarfing a bag of Doritos while my kids fight over the remote for their third hour of television that day.
Here are 9 reasons I won’t be remotely tempted to camp with small children:
1. There aren’t sound machines and room darkening curtains in tents. I like my sleep. No, I covet my sleep. Since giving birth to my sleep-sucking spawn, I have spent countless hours reading, weeping, and working all things to make my children sleep through the night. If I am going to seriously interfere with that, you can bet it won’t be to sleep on the ground in a nylon sarcophagus.
2. Which brings me to reason number two—my bed. I spent a long time researching, testing, and saving for the experience of sleeping on the wings of baby angels in heaven, so the idea of leaving such a lovely sleeping space for the dirt covered earth below seems misguided at best.
3. The nylon sarcophagus known as a tent. Some call this a dwelling space, but I don’t care how many “rooms” that bad boy has, a tent is a tent. And when there’s not much separating me from the sun, loud neighbors, a hungry bear, or some creep in the woods, I’ll pass.
4. Campers’ perfume. There’s a reason they don’t bottle the sweet smell/taste of bug spray, campfire smoke, sweat, perpetually damp clothing, and sunscreen mingled together on skin.
5. Sun. Parents have a love-hate relationship with the sun. It’s beautiful and bright and ushers in the hope of a new day. But it also ushers in chirping birds, waking children, and the realization that life sucks and you don’t get to sleep in anymore. With a nylon sheet building as the only thing separating the sun from your child’s eyes, say goodbye to them sleeping 9-12 hours as you adopt the sleep schedule of early humans.
6. Pictures lie. I’ve seen the photos. I’ve even been lulled into thinking that the one perfect photo displayed on my friend’s social media site is the sum total of their trip. But then I remember what it’s actually like to live and travel with children, what kind of bribery typically goes into capturing that one perfect picture, and I return to my senses.
7. Modern plumbing. Despite my children’s fascination with taking a leak in the great outdoors, I’m not interested in digging holes. Dogs dig holes and I am not a dog.
8. Public showers. Unless you’re a foot fungus, water-seeking insect, or creep, public showers are to be avoided at all costs.
9. Whining. My children whine enough. If I’m going to change the scenery and backdrop, I’d rather it include a full night of sleep, hot coffee, a solid wall between us and the rest of the world, and a tub I can sit in fully clothed with a glass of wine while hoping and praying they fall asleep before dawn.
Take it from someone who has hiked and canoed into remote places, hoisted backpacks into trees, dug holes for toilets, and spent shifts on wildlife-watch while stoking continual campfires. Camping can be fun, just not with small children.
Parenting and attempting to vacation with kids can be stress-inducing, exhausting, and the closest thing you’ll get to questioning your sanity. Trust me when I say this isn’t the time to be adventurous, earn extreme-parenting brownie points, or take the road less traveled. This is the time to stay sane, keep your relationships intact, minimize future therapy bills, and avoid eating your spawn.
While it’s true that the great outdoors can be a majesty to behold, when small children are involved—there’s nothing better than a hotel with room service and a pool, or a staycation with your own bed.
About the Author
Jen Kinney is a writer and anti-trafficking activist. Her twin sons and passion for social justice make her a prime candidate for therapy. Humor and sarcasm fuel her, along with copious amounts of coffee and wine. You can find her writings at The Mighty, HuffPost, and her blog www.jenkinney.com.