sideways rabbit

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sleeping bags: the new straitjackets

I love camping almost precisely as much as I hate it. At 41, I'm getting a little too old to sleep on the rooty forest floor. (I'm furiously trying to manifest a pop-up camper into our lives.) And the preparation and clean-up involved makes my ADD explode like toadstools. Still, there's nothing quite like the gooey core of inner serenity that a weekend in the wilderness imparts. The humans back in the city grimace and hurry, ambitiously stifled in their metaphysical straitjackets. But you are free.


Where we live, in the N.C. mountains, there are so many glorious places to camp it would take the better part of a fortnight to list them all. (Don't you just love the idea of a fortnight? There's no other increment of time that deserves "the better part.")


Still, I'm into lists lately. So here's my latest:




1) WONDERFUL: It gets your kid out of his comfort zone. No school, no schedules, no TV, no Angry Birds, no whining rut (e.g. at bedtime). His exhilaration is palpable. He cavorts. He is overwhelmed. He crawls into his sleeping bag at night and falls asleep in two flicks of a bat's wing. TERRIBLE: It, um, gets your kid out of his comfort zone. At home, you've trained him to hold your hand in parking lots, look both ways before crossing the street, and to steer clear when Daddy pours accelerant on the grill in an attempt to sear ribs on damp charcoal. But the minute you get to a campground, he pedals his bike straight toward the dense, 510,000-acre forest bordering the tent site. The novelty of wearing Daddy's shirt to keep warm warrants dragging that shirt's extra-long sleeve through the campfire -- just to see what will happen.


2) WONDERFUL: Your extraordinarily picky eater will try foods while camping he would never dream of eating at home. TERRIBLE: This mainly means a hot dog on a stick.


3) WONDERFUL: Thanks to early wilderness experiences, your child will hopefully grow up comfortable with the notion of bears, bugs and other wildlife. He has seen a copperhead. He has heard a fox cry at night for her kits. TERRIBLE: Bad stuff can still happen. Going on mother's intuition, you put your kid's bike helmet on him before the tubing portion of the camping excursion, even though he's never worn a helmet while tubing before. Ten minutes down the river, he smacks hard into an unexpected, fallen tree, leaving a scratch on the helmet you'll obsess over for weeks. Could have been the head. Could have been the head.


4) WONDERFUL: Thanks to his natural five-year-old's curiosity, he will ask many questions about the flora and the fauna. TERRIBLE: Thanks to his natural five-year-old's curiosity, he will ask ABSOLUTELY ENDLESS questions about the flora and the fauna. Oh, you thought you were going to blissfully lose yourself in that novel you'd saved for the trip? Hm. Funny.


5) WONDERFUL: Camping helps solidify your identity as a family. Who are we? We are campers. We are hikers. We are tubers. TERRIBLE: The stress of camping with just one child has you dwelling on how utterly unable you'd be to handle more than one. Parents who do are miraculous. You, on the other hand, would end up in a straitjacket (see first paragraph).

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