I hate to be the ‘ER camping cliche’- where the mom thinks she can handle her kids at a camp ground and then ends up in the ER at 2:30 am…. but that was me. After I realized that something terrible could have gone wrong in the mountains, and so far away from services, I was fine with being a simple-type of cliche, the kind that may give the nurses a chuckle later at shift change.
My little camp troll is asleep in his camo sweat shirt outfit; with blood spots on his face and dirt caked in his hair (we had been camping for three hours- how did he get so filthy?). He was not in any pain, even though his tooth was hanging by a thread and protruding awkwardly out of his mouth. The nurse said, “hi sweetie” and he woke up and still smiled.
The doctor attempted to push his tooth back in its place and instead it popped right out. My camp troll was more concerned about where the TV sound was coming from than acknowledging any pain he might have felt. Strangely, I was thinking that after a two and a half hour drive, and fleeing our campsite and leaving all of our things, it might have been nice for the doctor to say something like: ‘Good thing you brought him in when you did’ or ‘He would have been in a tremendous amount of pain later’ or ‘You are a really good parent’. I wanted him to validate our decision to take him to the ER and somehow give me props- like he was my life coach congratulating me on making it through the day without freaking out and hiding under a table. Then I wanted to ask the professional a few other questions:
Should we go camp again tomorrow? Will kids at this age remember camping trips when they are older? What is the minimal amount of sleep a mother can function on safely? And, is it ethical to build a fence for a child while on a camping trip? Tie him to a tree? What about a net? And what should I do with my life….But I didn’t.
We made it home at 4 am and as we brought the older kids in the house they cried because “they were starving”, of course. I unwillingly made toast and told them to eat it in their beds; they thought I was being a cool mom…I was too tired to care.
Guess what time they all woke up? 8:00AM.
My Daughter came bursting into our room and yelled: “Mom! I’m so excited- today we get to actually go camping! I am going to stay in my pajamas until we get there and make breakfast by the fire. Can we? Can we? Mom?….Dad! Guess what…”
Like a master manipulator, or a jewel thief trying to plan their get away, I went through all of the ways I could possibly get out of driving back up that mountain with the toddler. Every option ended with a child crying because their mom did not love them enough to throw herself on the campfire stick of self-less-ness. So I tuck away my dark thoughts of faking a migraine . My best description of this situation is that feeling one gets when they have started to re-arrange their house, (thinking it will change their life, which I do often)- but half way through it they want to give up and put a free sign on the door to start over somewhere else; it’s too much work. Do we really need those camping items? How much money can I pay my kids to avoid finishing this camping weekend?
After my husband and I both decided there was no way out of this, we prayed for God to seriously help us. We tanked up the gas tank, again, and headed back up the bloody mountain (after we hit up Starbucks- I bet our camp neighbors will be jealous). We got to our camp site to find all of our belongings spread throughout the camp ground- just kidding, but that was what I was expecting to happen. We pulled up and our neighbors were frantically packing up their site. We discussed ‘the incident’ and the mom, who had a toddler as well, said they “just can’t do another night” and “it was too hard”. She looked like she was about to cry, she was so exhausted. I looked at her like, ‘I get what you are feeling’ and said good bye. She said good luck, and I needed it.
We hung our blankets out to dry and got back into our normal routines and games of “No Way”. Half way through recovering the camp site, I quit and put my fly rod together. My husband came out of the tent he was trying to make waterproof and looked at me like I was joking. Without saying a word, I threw some donut holes next to the tent for the toddler and made my way towards the creek. I brought my other two kids to teach them about fly fishing/let them watch me fly fish/let them think I was being a fun parent/de-stress while semi-alone.
Without even looking at the water, or hatches going on, I threw on a parachute Adams fly because I haven’t used one in a while and it was looking lonely (wow even my flies have feelings now, maybe I do need a life coach after all). I let it drift through the cutest creek and by the third drift, I hook a little brook trout that was just beautiful- colorful spots and just so cute! I feel like a giant fishing a normal river with the tiny creek, tiny flies, and tiny trout. After my son saw me catch the trout, he wanted to cast too! I showed him how to mend the line up stream and watch his fly. He said, “Mom, I’m doing it!”
He was really good at casting! But it lasted about five minutes…I was still proud and glad to see that my fly fishing addiction/selfish problems were actually becoming useful as my son was interested in casting! About an hour later, we were met by this at the creek:
My little toothless camp troll and the husband that doesn’t really ever get to sit down. I hung my fly rod on the tree behind the tent as not to tempt the toddler who loves to play fishing. While I was making lunch and organizing our food box, that I had packed as if we were staying for a month, the camp troll was running and falling down every 50 steps. I sat him down and gave him paper towels to rip up, that’s how desperate I was for peace. The little squirt was exhausted.
Being the awesome person I am (and with selfish intentions of course) I offered to stay awake with my 6 yr. old daughter while all the boys napped in the tent. I packed my fly bag with water, sunscreen, donut holes, and grabbed my fly rod. My daughter and I tip toed out of the camp site while listening to the camp troll banter back and forth with my husband in the tent:
Troll: “Zip, Zip”.
Husband: “Lay your head down”
Troll: “No way. Zip, Zip, Zip”
Husband: “Lay your head down”.
My daughter and I snuck off over the bridge to a sandy spot where I thought she would love to play in the sand while I debriefed and finally caught some trout. I switched to a smaller caddis fly to match what I saw in the air. I mended the line up stream and let it flow down around the bend until it drifted in the perfect spot, under the shady tree and next to the cut bank. And just like finding change in the couch where you know where to look, the fish hit the caddis hard every time. I caught about three brookies and a few of what I think were the wild rainbows. So beautiful! I looked over at my daughter who is digging a hole- it’s just her and I here in nature, together. I start to try to remember what I should do in this type of situation: selfishly continue fishing, or try to teach her something about life, or create some sort of memory that she will think about when she is in college getting ready to make some really bad choices? Ah the decisions of parenthood.
I decide to ask her, and together we decide to go for a nature hike to find the perfect family spot for later. She smiles and skips up the pathway; I know I made the right choice.
We tip toe back into camp to drop off my fly rod and I peer into the tent to find the little camp troll sleeping soundly, with his little tushy sticking straight in the air. They are all so adorable to me (not just because they are being quiet, I would never say that…).
My daughter and I walk to the edge of camp and we hear a loud sound, like horses crashing through the woods. We look up to see three huge bucks running about 100 ft. from us. One had a giant non-typical rack that had drop tines and was cooler than Bambi’s dad for sure. After they ran off, we walk over to huddle with the other campers who saw the bucks as well; we were in the right place at the right time. Then we continued on our hike. We roamed all around, talking about the woods and summer plans. We saw a gardener snake, prospected areas to play in the sand and of course sized up the rest of the trout stream in the area.
Later, when we got back to camp, it was delightful to hear her detailed storytelling to the rest of the family about our mid-day adventure together. We made an easy dinner and hauled a bunch of stuff to the secret spot that my daughter and I had picked out to relax at in the evening; it had a huge tree in between the creek and the sand bar, perfect for over-curious toddlers. My son caught his first rainbow trout on my fly rod (kind of by accident, but he reeled it in). We all praised him and tried to get him to hold it for a picture but he was terrified…we have to work on that a bit.
Yes, the night time was horrid- with mountain temperatures blowing into our suburbia-type array of mismatched blankets. Yes- the kids got up as soon as the birds made their first peeps. Yes- I did throw all of the dirty dishes in a bag to deal with later. Yes- we did have to tie the toddler in his car seat, with the AC on, while he watched a movie and ate chips, so that we could pack up camp for what seemed like three hours. And Yes- I did put sunscreen on everyone else but myself.
I finally ‘got my house rearranged and back in order’, instead of giving up on what seemed impossible. I was able to be in nature, fish, and spend quality time with my kids in between the craziest times ever.
The camp troll experience really taught me some lessons:
A) Emergencies can happen at any time and be at any level of severity. We must hold dear the ones we love and make sure we are taking the time to enjoy each moment with them, no matter how annoying they can get.
B.) I really need a friend to tell me when I am making horrible decisions about my outdoor adventures. This is a good idea- but I probably won’t listen (I’m camping again this Friday).
C.) And at the end of it all, even despite my pathetic story of the exhausted camp mom, I didn’t give up and I actually had a wonderful second day of camping.
D.) I was wavering on this at first, but my final decision is: ADVENTURE IS ALWAYS WORTH IT!
To those parents that told me they won’t be taking their kids camping after reading my story, I hope you change your mind. But don’t think of me when it goes terribly, horribly wrong.