My husband decided that we needed to go camping on the Saturday night before Mother’s Day. Seeing how I just love sleeping outside in the cold, on the ground, with snakes potentially crawling nearby and mosquitos feasting on my blood—this was a great Mother’s Day gift! (Surely you picked up on the sarcasm dripping from my voice, right?)
Now, I’m all about doing things with my boys. I truly love spending time outside, riding four-wheelers, roasting marshmallows. Just doing all those wonderful outdoorsy, country activities. We spend tons of time outside as a family. I could never be accused of being an ‘indoor’ girl — so don’t even go there. But I kind of draw the line when it comes to sleeping outside. I just don’t like it. Call me picky. I love my bed. I love the smell of my house. I love easy access to an actual toilet. You know, the little things.
And it doesn’t help that my two previous camping experiences have not been great. Both were tolerable until it came time to sleep. On camping trip number one, we slept on an inflatable mattress that was purchased at a garage sale. I guess that was our first mistake: never buy an inflatable mattress that’s had previous owners. It was actually a nice bed because it sat on top of a stand, so it was up off the ground (which gave this snake-fearing lady a little peace).
But what wasn’t nice is that this mattress apparently had a hole. And why wouldn’t it? It was used, after all! So, every thirty minutes or so it would totally deflate and we would be left lying there with metal bars jabbing into our backs, causing searing pain. And I was about five months’ pregnant so this was an added bonus.
Sidenote: Who takes their pregnant wife tent-camping?
My husband had to pump the mattress up with the electric air pump, which was really loud. He had to do it about ten times that night. There were other campers all around us, so I’m sure they were thrilled with the noise.
I literally got no sleep. But, at least that was before we had our first child and I could actually take a nap and catch up on missed sleep. I don’t even think I know what sleep is these days.
Our second camping experience was about a year ago. My husband decided we would take our, then three-year-old camping in the woods near my parents’ house. We decided to leave our one-year-old at home with my mom and dad because we knew he wouldn’t do too well with the whole sleeping-outside-on-the-ground thing.
I tried to convince my husband that I would be much better off at my parents’ house as well. I mean, a one-year-old needs his mama. But, he insisted that I must stay in the tent, and he so persistent.
On this trip, when it was bedtime we had to deal with a fussy three-year-old who wasn’t accustomed to sleeping with us, or outside for that matter. He cried and screamed, which wouldn’t have been so bad except that friends were camping in the tent next to us.
I spent the whole time totally paranoid that we were waking them up (which I’m sure we were).We had borrowed an inflatable bed from one of my husband’s friends and it turns out this bed also had a hole. Of course it did.
I spent the whole night tossing and turning, nervously listening to the howling of coyotes that sounded much too close for comfort and a four-wheeler driving by that also sounded much too close for comfort. Smack dab in the middle of hunting season was probably not the best time to camp in the woods. I spent most of the night fearing a stray bullet.
I woke up the next morning completely exhausted.
So, this time when my husband said he wanted to camp, I tried my darndest to get out of it. I said I would stay until midnight and then go home. I love the camping festivities. I just hate the sleeping situation. But, my husband can be very persuasive ...So I stayed in the tent—with both boys this time.
In all honesty, the kids did really well. They went to sleep. After a major battle over the iPad, which included hitting and pinching and maybe a little biting. I had brought along the device so I could turn on a movie in hopes of lulling them to sleep. As usual, my four-year-old had other ideas. He snatched that thing before I even realized it and was fixated as he played Angry Birds.
My two-year-old tried to take it from him. When my youngest starting tugging on the iPad and interrupting my older son’s game of Angry Birds, all heck broke loose. Finally I got the iPad away and turned on an animated movie, much to the infuriation of my four-year-old, who angrily rolled over and said, “I’m not watching that movie. After a few minutes, he was totally asleep. Our two-year-old followed not long after.
My husband had purchased two brand new inflatable queen-sized beds for us. Yes, I said brand new. These beds actually stayed firm and inflated the whole night.
Some friends of ours camped out in a tent right next to us with their little boys. The husbands stayed up and talked by the campfire while us moms got the “rewarding” job of getting the kids to go to sleep. I don’t know what crappy kind of reward that was supposed to be.
At one point, after both boys were asleep, I realized that I had to pee. I didn’t want to go right outside the tent because the men were still awake. And there was no way I was going to walk back into the deep dark woods and squat down, only to be eaten by a bear or wolf. I finally found a Styrofoam cup. What on earth was I going to do with the contents of the now-full cup? I guess I hadn’t quite thought that through.
“Hey, Carl. Um, could you come here a minute,” I whispered at the text flaps.
I handed him the almost-overflowing cup, to his horror. He told me that I was “disgusting” but then slowly walked, trying not to slosh, to the woods like a good little husband.
After a minute, I heard him call to his friend, “Hey, come here and look at this!”
There was an armadillo and two baby armadillos right behind our tent! I knew there was a good reason for not going into the dark woods to pee. I would’ve most definitely been attacked by a vicious mother armadillo.
Finally, I managed to fall asleep. During the night it got cold. I had covered us with several blankets and a sleeping bag but it was awful. I cuddled and cradled one child in an effort to keep him warm. I held his little feet the whole night. When we awoke early the next morning, I noticed his feet were black. I mean, completely covered in disgusting smudge. Filthy.
I desperately needed a shower. My children desperately needed a shower. We needed a toilet. It was time to go home.
Can someone tell my husband that a more appropriate gift for Mother’s Day next year would be a reservation for one at a hotel?
Sometimes moms just need a little alone time.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem