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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Camping with Kids? Don’t Expect to Sleep

By Pam Moore

God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. —The Serenity Prayer

Alcoholics Anonymous may be responsible for the popularity of the Serenity Prayer, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for other situations, like taking your kids camping. As soon as you accept the things you can’t change, you will quickly and easily stop fantasizing about faking your own death or “discovering” your minivan’s tires have been slashed just before your next family camping trip. Here are four truths I’ve learned on our family camping trips.

You will touch all the things. None will spark joy. Camping is packing all the things, only to unpack, pack, unpack, and wash them, usually within a 36- to 72-hour window. Loudly sighing and muttering, “The kids’ sun hats and toothbrushes aren’t going to pack themselves” through gritted teeth, and zipping duffel bags with the intensity of a thousand blazing suns, will not change this fact. Believe me, I’ve tried.

You can forget about quality sleep. You’re exhausted by the time you arrive. Anyone would be after driving to the edge of nowhere with a soundtrack of “Are we there yet?” on repeat. A nap would be perfect, but only if you find it rejuvenating to sleep in a pool of your own sweat. Tents become saunas by about 8 a.m. in the summer.

Going to sleep early sounds amazing, except for the whole part about your kids being there. Just accept that they are too amped up on s’mores and daylight to stop moving, let alone sleep. And, of course, your kids won’t sleep in. Even if they did sleep past 6 a.m., there’s the whole issue of your tent turning into a steam room by 8.

Your kids will be dirty and sticky the whole time. If you can’t stand the look or feel of little hands and faces caked in a mixture of high-fructose corn syrup and dirt, it will be better to just not look at or touch your kids the entire time you’re camping. Accept that no amount of baby wipes or hand sanitizer will be sufficient to get your kids looking like they didn’t just crawl out of a coal mine. Don’t waste energy chasing them with a washcloth. You’re better off conserving your resources for when you have to load up the car and unload it again.

You will not get lucky. Just forget it. Before you had kids, a tent (or anywhere) was a fantastic place to get busy. Now…just no. It’s one thing to have some grown-up time at home with your kids hovering around your locked bedroom door while you yell, “Not right now, we’re busy. Take the iPad! Yes, you heard me right!” It’s quite another to get your freak on in the same tent as your kids.

It was my fate to marry a man whose parents took him on his first camping trip before his first birthday. The active pursuit of discomfort is in his DNA. While I’ll never choose camping over staying in an air-conditioned hotel, I’m proud to report I’ve never stabbed my better half with a marshmallow roasting stick, either. It’s all about acceptance. 

This article was originally published on Motherly.

Find Pam Moore’s guide to crushing Impostor Syndrome at