My family recently went camping at a state park about two hours away. We are novice campers, but we did our research and managed to pull off a nice, inexpensive vacation for the kids. The biggest adventure of the trip occurred on the last day. Paul, recognizing that his introverted wife needed some time to herself, invited the girls to accompany him on an expedition through the forest adjacent to our campsite. He left me alone with my thoughts and the breakfast dishes. I had just rinsed the final plate and was about to begin drying when I heard horrible screams in the distance. “DADDY!!!!!!” “AAAAAUGH!!!!!” I dropped my dish towel and began to run down the path into the forest. My imagination brought to mind a number of terrors. Had Paul fallen into the ravine? Were the children okay? What had happened? Soon I met the girls on the path running toward me in hysterics—arms flailing, tears streaming. Paul came along behind them, and all around was a swarm of wasps. We all returned to the campsite quickly with the children sprinting in all directions as they tried to escape the fiends. Caroline had wasps crawling in her hair and all over her fleece pullover. She began frantically tugging at her pullover. I did what I could to help them calm down so that the wasps wouldn’t sense a need to defend themselves against the large, noisy threats that had disturbed their nest. “MOMMY HAS ONE IN HER HAIR!!!” Juliet cried out. Paul began swatting a bit too firmly for my liking. Caroline finally managed to get her fleece off and threw it to the ground promising to leave it behind. Laura was crying but was the least hysterical of the three. The girls demanded that we leave immediately. This seemed like a good idea to us, so we loaded everyone into the van and drove away, hoping that a break from the wilderness would help them compose themselves. Paul, Caroline, and Laura each received several stings. Juliet, the most panic-stricken of the three, escaped unharmed. Caroline declared, “I’m never going outside again.”
As it turned out, the five of us spent the next several hours hiking a canyon at the state park. They even seemed to enjoy it, although they did recoil at every single insect they saw along the way. Except for the butterflies and dragonflies. After the hike, we returned to the campsite to eat lunch and to pack up for home. The girls refused to get out of the van.
Paul cannot do anything without reviewing the event to list what we have learned. Here’s what we learned on this camping trip:
(1) You cannot have too many towels.
(2) Make sure you have a sleeping bag for each person.
(3) Don’t forget table knives—especially if you plan to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
(4) Double check your first aid kit—it needs children’s ibuprofen. Also, more adhesive bandages. It doesn’t matter how many you have; you will need more.
(5) You also need more wet wipes than you think.
(6) You also need more charcoal than you think (that is, if you plan to grill—maybe you don’t need to).
(7) Children want s’mores every night.
(8) Begin dinner preparations early so that you don’t have to wash dishes after dark.
(9) Don’t try to take down the tent at the last minute.
(10) When you take kids into the forest, lead the way—don’t let them go ahead of you.
(11) Don’t be stingy with ice. Buy it every day.
Believe it or not, the children are willing to try camping again, so we might actually get to use this list of lessons. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Post Script: Today I was attacked by a wasp—in my basement! Don’t tell the children or they’ll never go down there to feed the cats.