After last week’s day trip to Goose Creek State Park, I had the brilliant idea that it was time to take the boys on a real, action-packed, back to nature camping trip.  I spent a couple of days researching the perfect campground that fulfilled our numerous requirements (electric/water site, swimming, fishing, well-maintained, family oriented, boat rentals nearby, within 3 hours drive) and Googled, edited, copied and printed pages of packing lists and camping tips.  Wayne and I obsessed over the weekend’s weather forecast and debated the wisdom of taking children camping with the threat of rain and storms (varied from 30% to 50% chance).  In the end, we reserved our tent site, shopped for the food and packed all the necessities and embarked on our journey to Staunton River State Park in Virginia.

Now might be a good time (or bad one) to admit … I do NOT like to camp.  I do love to fall asleep with the awesome sounds of crickets and frogs and awake to the chirping of birds but am quite satisfied with doing that with my window open while lying in a luxuriously soft bed in an air-conditioned cabin (yes, I know … I am cooling the great outdoors).  And Heaven knows there is nothing quite like marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey chocolate bars melding together in sweet “gooeyness” over a crackling camp fire, with said camp fire burning away in our patio fire pit.  And I won’t even begin to detail my preference for a whirlpool garden tub and private toilet over the community bathhouse.  So, why exactly would I suggest we take our 3 boys on a REAL camping trip??  Well, because I am a mother of 3 boys.  And I’m married to a hunter from the boondocks of Edgecombe County.  And my parents forced me to take these insane camping trips with them when I was a child.  So it is actually my maternal duty to share these experiences with my children!

So, what did I learn about tent camping in the great outdoors with 4 males (ages 40, 9, 5, and 2)?

1.  Let the man think that camping is his domain … no matter how long it takes him to find the hidden sleeve to insert the last tent pole.

2.  Carpet squares cut to fit the tent will be helpful not only to cut down on amount of dirt in the tent, but would actually be very helpful when you find out in the middle of a rain storm that your tent DOES indeed leak — at the bottom seams.  At least then you won’t have to use every towel or blanket you brought (for extra comfort) to soak up the puddles in the tent.

3.  Children’s bodies are so much more adaptable to harsh conditions (the hard ground) than mine is so I should feel no guilt whatsoever when I force them to sleep in their sleeping bags on the floor, instead of sharing a futon mattress made for 2 with 5!

4. Illuminating glow sticks provide lots of entertainment for the kids until it is bedtime … then Mom thinks they are utensils of evil.

5. No matter how insane you thought your husband’s idea was to bring a fan, thank and reward him for preventing an unspeakably torturous, sleepless  night of heat and humidity.

6.  Convince your best friend and her family that this was the greatest family adventure EVER and make reservations for a group camping trip next month!!