When you take your 7-year-old niece camping – with grand visions of writing about the experience – it’s a little overwhelming.
My sister asked if I would accompany Mary Grace (right) on her inaugural father-daughter outing. It was part of the Oak Cliff Y-Guides program, which “encourages fathers and their children to spend uninterrupted time together as members of a larger group, building lifelong memories and bonds.”
“Her dad doesn’t camp,” my sister explained.
“Sure...sounds fun,” I responded with visions of blog posts
dancing in my head.
dancing in my head.
Confession: After spending 36 hours in the “wilderness” – I’m stuck. I have no idea where this story should start, and I’m even less clueless where it should go. There was just WAY too much fodder.
I HAVE decided that this adventure is worthy of two or three blog posts. Heck, I made that decision when I received the information packet and it said: “You are a Wildflower!!! Congratulations!!” (When I found out that I’d be sporting a leather vest (right) all weekend, too...there was instantly fodder for another post!)
But what’s my angle? My point? What’s the essence of these blog posts?
One potential theme: The fact that the entire weekend was like herding cats.
Then there were the prison beds we slept on.
I could get profound and explain what it was like to be around an engaged group of loving and caring dads for a weekend.
But I think the most logical premises would be:
• The fact that my life continuously flashed before my eyes, and
• The importance of selling the experience to my brother-in-law so I can hand him the baton for future camp outs.
This is the first part of a three-part series about me walking into the wilderness with a 7-year-old and walking out with a completely different perspective of being a father.
While some of this blog post will come across as bitching and moaning – that is simply for dramatic effect and humor. This was a remarkable experience with my niece that I will NEVER forget.
I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy herding cats.
– – –
It’s important to set the scene for the weekend, because the term “camping” is a little bit of a stretch.
It was more like summer camp. The fact we were at Collin County Adventure Camp, which is spitting distance from the 'burbs, helped remove the tag of "roughing it."
There were heated cabins – no tents. We had indoor plumbing – no wiping with foliage. And we ate in a cafeteria – no hot dogs and beans over an open flame. We even had two showers in our cabin – no stale smell of nature for a long period of time.
There was a campfire, but that was nothing more than a safe haven for the dads. The kids only paid attention to it when it was time to make smores.
Needless to say, I sent my sister a text letting her know that my brother-in-law could probably handle this “camping” experience. I intentionally didn’t go into detail about the cabin, though. I thought that would be counter-productive to my recruiting efforts.
If he glanced at the instructions and checklist for the campout, he would have been tipped off. It read:
“Mark your clothes...It can get crazy in the cabins!”
I giggled when I read the warning. After being there 5 minutes, I totally understood. (No giggling)
There were eight kids and six adults in a 14-bunk room, which meant there were little socks, coats, PJs, undies and shoes EVERYWHERE. Obviously, the dads did a good job keeping their stuff corralled, but those little girls were like walking tornadoes. I almost came home with a pair of tights and a Hello Kitty nightgown. (I’m just glad I took the advice on the checklist and I put my initials in my boxers.)
When describing the accommodations via text to my sister and brother-in-law, I didn’t mention the chaos. I definitely didn’t bring up the concert of sounds that filled the cabin.
When you have 14 people sleeping in one room (some of my roommates pictured on the right) – the noises define the experience as soon as the lights are turned off. It starts with 7-year-old whispers and giggles and ends with intense snoring and flatulence from grown men.
You knew it wasn't ideal when some of the dads were threatening to sleep in their cars, despite the 29-degree temperatures. No one made good on his threat, though. I’m convinced it was because they weren’t 100 percent sure if they were part of the symphony or not. (I definitely wasn’t sure...campfires do a number on my sinuses and we had a chili cook-off one night.)
In all honesty, I think the prison beds would have caused someone to snap before the ensemble of sleep apnea and butt trumpets.
While I laid awake at 3:30 in the morning – begging my brain to block out the sounds, the radiant glow of the TWO exit signs and the aches in my lower back – I worked-up a description for these beds:
Imagine sleeping on a very large cookie sheet lined with a partially inflated pool raft.
One of the dads compared it to a combination of a park bench and an airplane seat. Another dad said the inmates at Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville would NOT be jealous. (That’s when I jumped on the term “prison beds” and didn’t look back.)
The mattress was definitely “memory foam” – the only problem it was remembering the person who outweighed me by 150 pounds and went immediately flat. (Reminder: An unforgiving cookie sheet was underneath the mattress.)
We all survived, though, and a plethora of adventures followed. There is nothing like a full-day of get-it-on after a horrible night of sleep.
Archery, BB gun range, candle making, rock wall climbing, treasure hunt, bonfire....
I’m just tired trying to remember everything.
That’s why I’ll save that for Part II.