Take 8 children between the ages of 4-7, canteens, mess kits, bathing suits, sleeping bags, a well chaperoned camp fire, hot dogs, corn & s’ mores, a lake (an unheated pool – go with me on this), a threat of a thunderstorm and what you have is Camp Laugh A Lot!
One of my favorite summer pleasures (inspired by Richard Louv and his book Last Child in the Woods) is to invite a few neighborhood kids to camp overnight in tents. No showers, no brushing teeth, no clocks, television, video games, organized sports or activities…just a backyard, bare bones camping experience.
Our campers played, as we did many moons ago; hide and seek, cops and robbers, tag, they picked flowers and decorated their “fort”, chased lightening bugs, went for intermittent swims, ate and at last retired to their tents well beyond their regularly scheduled bed times.
Just as they got settled, rain drops began to fall and off in the distance you could hear the rumblings of thunder.
Alone in my little one man tent, only steps away from the kids, I contemplated an evacuation plan.
I unzipped my tent, took three giant steps over to theirs and asked, “OK kids, looks like we have a storm, is everyone ok?” “Yeah!” shouted the crowd. “It’s raining pretty hard, is anyone getting wet?” “Yes, we are, only a little though” was the response from the littlest ones in the front by the screen door. With no requests to evacuate, I zipped all their flaps and retreated back to my tent, still a bit worried about my campers. I managed to lie still, as the rain picked up and the rain fly of my tent started contorting in the wind. For ten more minutes, I anxiously awaited the screams of “help I am a child, used to the indoors, electronic games, organized activities, a world void of bugs, creepy night noises and scary stories – GET ME OUT OF HERE!”, but no such shouts or pleas came.
Making one last attempt, I asked, “OK kids, it’s like a monsoon outside, some of you are getting wet, is anyone scared?” “NO!” was the unanimous response. Still I thought, better evacuate now rather than at 2am…again I said, “I think we should head inside!” Very disappointed, Camp Laugh A Lot would be washed out this year.
Then from the back of the tent, two big blue eyes popped up, stuffed bunny in hand and in a soft voice said “No thank you, I’m not going inside, this is what I came for.” Everybody agreed! I chuckled, realized I was probably over protecting, over projecting and over reacting…I finally left them alone, to tell their jokes, stories and enjoy their camping experience together. Not another peep was heard from the counselor nor the campers until dawn.
Happy campers, to evacuate or not? What are some of your kid camping stories?
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