You can’t really call yourself a legit kid unless you’ve gone camping at least once. It’s up to us parents to deliver the goods so our children can experience this rite of passage in all its crunchy glory.
And believe me, you’ll want to make these memories last. Because this damn well may be the last time your kids ever see Mother Nature this up close and personal again.
Here’s how to make sure your family camping trip is truly unforgettable:
1. Pack up the entire house so you can sleep outside and pretend you don’t have a home. The key is to cram so much shit into the car, there’s barely any room left for the kids. They’ll bitch and moan about their discomfort the whole way there. But once they arrive they’ll be ready to jump out of the car and into Mother Nature faster than you can hum “This Land Is Your Land.”
2. Buy (or borrow) a really complicated tent. Things will start off smoothly enough as you dump out all the materials to set up camp. But in just a matter of minutes, you’ll soon realize all the Sudoku in the world couldn’t have prepared you for this mind-bending puzzle. You’ll be totally stumped trying to solve the riddle of which pole goes into which hole. In your idiotic stupor, you’ll fail to notice the bunched up tarp, so you’ll trip and—whoa!—that definitely was the wrong hole. Now that’s not something the kids will forget seeing anytime soon.
3. Embrace salty language. Your kids will suddenly develop supersonic hearing when you begin cursing out the tent manufacturer. And when you accidentally hammer your thumb instead of the tent stake, they’ll be right there to witness your tirade. A whole new dialect will be revealed, courtesy of the obnoxious, drunk loudmouths at the campsite next door, which will result in you being peppered with questions like, “That man said ‘Bitch gave me crabs’ like it was a bad thing. Mom, what does he have against shellfish?”
4. Make sure to bring more kids than grown-ups. This will guarantee a constant state of total and absolute mayhem. By the time you’re done making breakfast and cleaning up from it, guess what time it will be? You’ll have your hands so full trying to get lunch on the table it’ll be impossible to keep tabs on everyone. It’s okay if a couple of the kids go missing for a while. That’s the point of camping—let them run free. Besides, the smart ones always find their way back.
5. Go on a weekend when there’s record heat. This will do wonders for everyone’s state of irritability, especially when combined with a lack of sleep. The kids will be so hot and sweaty, they’ll hardly notice that a burn ban is in effect. Until it comes time to make s’mores and you realize you aren’t allowed to build a campfire. Never fear, the chocolate and marshmallows will already be melted anyhow. Smear them both on a graham cracker and, voila, heat-wave s’mores to the rescue.
6. Pick a campsite next to a river or lake (also known as a bathtub). Not only will the kids be able to wash away the daily grime, they’ll have a constant source of amusement at their fingertips. Bring some rafts and a fishing pole and let them go wild. That toad can be kept as a pet for the weekend. Make sure they name it (“Forrest” is a good pick) and form an intensely close bond. Then toss it back into the woods just before you drive off. This would be an ideal time to yell, “Run, Forrest, run!”
7. Let them play rough. Don’t bother bringing a bunch of toys from home. Your kids are just going to want to play with what nature provides anyhow. Sticks make for great lightsabers or swords, skipping stones will entertain them for hours on end, and there’s a jagged tree just begging to be climbed. Sure, at least one injury is bound to occur. But it doesn’t really count unless it involves severe blood loss or a broken bone. Plus the messier it is the more memorable it will be.
Of course, there is the off chance your kids will have so much fun they’ll actually want to go camping again. But even if they don’t want to venture back into the great outdoors, they’ll never forget the one time they did.
Now if you could just get them to stop repeating the things they heard you say while you were pitching that fit. Err, I mean that tent.
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