The first time we went camping this summer only Josh and Dylan spent the night in the tent; at the end of the evening, I drove Oscar and the dogs 20 minutes back home from the local campground. It was mid-May, still cold at night, and Dylan was stoked to wear his headlamp and sit at the campfire. We’ll call that a win.
The second time we went camping this summer the boys escaped from the tent – unzipped themselves and strolled on outta there while Josh and I snoozed unawares. Parents of the year, right here, folks. Thankfully, they didn’t get far – it was early morning hot when Josh bolted upright, sweating and frazzled with a fearful gasp and woke me with these words: “Kate! The boys are out of the tent!” Fumbling with blankets and the unsteady floor of an air mattress, scrambling for my glasses and a train of thought, I dumbly responded with, “What? Where? How?” We rushed to the window and immediately saw them, about 30 feet away from our tent, banging on one of our coolers with sticks. Josh hoarsely shouted through the window: “Boys! Get over here, NOW!” To which Dylan replied, “no, no, no, no, no, we’re not boys, we’re pups!”
Ok, so a few excuses:
We were exhausted. For his first night sleeping in a tent, Oscar failed miserably. At the beginning of the night, he managed to cry for about two hours straight before falling asleep, and then woke up screaming every hour after that. I finally lifted him out of his pack-n-play and laid him on the floor between our air mattress and Dylan’s cot; hence his freedom and mobility come sunrise.
We zipped the tent down, not up. It was one of those circular zips, and we zipped it down, where the kids could reach it. Rookie mistake.
Dylan’s refusal to answer to his own name, and his insistence on being called “pups” has been our intro to insanity all summer long. Rather than answer to Dylan, he claims he’s a character: he’s either Chase from Paw Patrol or Whyatt from Super Why or Gekko from PJ Masks, or Daisy from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, or Ralph from The Sound of Music or…and the list goes on. And in each TV show he’s reenacting, the rest of us are all characters too. Poor Oscar. At least Dylan understands that he’s pretending. Oscar is just called a different name every hour: Rubble, Peg, Catboy, Donald, Toto, Kurt, etc. It doesn’t seem to bother Oscar, though. He is my low-key child. Anything goes.
We got a kick out of Dylan’s impersonation phase at first, but it’s starting to get a bit ridiculous. He literally, will not respond to Dylan. He won’t even let me call Oscar by his name. In order to get Dylan to insert any task here, I must say something asinine like: “Chase, get off of Rubble’s head this instant or Skye (that’s me) is going to give you a time out.” And if, in my attempt at role-playing, I mix up the characters or fail to notice he changed personas mid-way through the day he stutters up a storm in protest, “no, no, no, no, no, I’m Whyatt, he’s Catboy, and you’re Owlette.” “Oh, ok, Whyatt, get over here and put your shoes on.” It’s exasperating. I’m pleased he’s imaginative, but sometimes I’d like him to give it a rest.
Anyways, I will admit that the possibility of them escaping the tent actually did cross my mind, but I assured myself, in that moment before drifting off to sleep for the fifth time that night that I would hear the sound of the zip…
The third time we went camping this summer raccoons ravaged our coolers and ate all our beef sticks and brats in the middle of the first night. From about ten feet away, we heard them scavenging around. Josh flashed a light through our tent windows, only to see a pack of about eight to twelve raccoons swirling around the camper and cooler. Despite Josh’s attempted threats (he whisper-screamed, “Get out!” in an attempt to not wake the boys), we watched as the largest raccoon unlatched the cooler, lifted the lid and held it open while two smaller ones on each side looted our food. Throughout the night, they returned four to five times, resulting in another sleepless night for all of us in the tent and solidifying the decision to sleep in Josh’s parents’ camper the following two nights. Dylan spent the better part of the next day hiding his toys from invisible raccoons and reenacting Josh’s run-in with the varmints, running around the campsite shouting, “Get out! Get out!”
These two parent fails would lead most sane people to call it quits. But, I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer. We must be aiming for an insanity rooted in good intentions. Someday we want our boys to know how to camp with us (with ease) and, therefore, we’re acclimating them to the chores of zipping a tent flap and storing your food in safe places at an early age. But whoa nelly, it certainly brings us to a new level of crazy.
Of course, there were moments of beauty too. There was the view itself: the tall trees of Forestville and the rushing of the Root River, the chirps and squeaks of birds and red squirrels and chipmunks, and the quiet nights with only the snap, crackle, and pop of a campfire. There were the daily Yeti hunts with Dylan traipsing through the campground saying, “Let me know if you hear a Yeti, Daddy.” To which Josh would let out a Chewbacca-like gargle howl. There were the jack-a-lope hunts at sunset, the boys pushing tall grasses aside, and putting on their “night vision goggles” to look for something that has the body of a jackrabbit and the antlers of an antelope.
And there were the little voices – the toddler chitchat – between Dylan & Oscar that is slowly becoming indistinguishable, which can mean only one thing: Oscar is growing up.
Dylan likes to tell me he’s a grownup already; his entire sense of time is skewed, sometimes purposefully: he likes to say that he’s five years old (not three) and that only babies wear underwear and only grownups wear diapers (a bit manipulative, that one). He tells Grandma Belanger she’s too young to drink beer, and Oscar is too old to eat with his hands. He says “one more book” ten thousand times and that he wants me to lay with him “just a little bit,” which means forever.
But what does it matter if his sense of time is skewed? It’s summertime. Days meld into one another and, for at least a few more weeks, I can’t tell a Tuesday from a Saturday. So I’m willing to let sleepless nights in tents unravel, if it means my babies (or pups or superheroes or whatever they want to be called today) can hike and run and play make-believe. In fact, when I kiss their sun-screened cheeks and wash their dirty hands, I’m truly one happy camper.