Kern River Campground | Bakersfield, California
The first thing my children do when they wake up in the morning – every morning – is ask to watch TV. The answer is virtually always no (except for on the weekends, when the answer is yes, of course; here are some Quentin Tarantino movies and Doritos; go away). But over the course of each and every day it pops up over and over again:
Can I watch Wellie Wishers? No.
Can I watch Bottersnikes & Gumbles?! I don’t know what that is, but no.
Can I watch that show where the frog astronaut floats through space while an EDM remix of We Are The Champions plays, and then once in awhile he looks straight at the camera and says “ding ding ding” for no especially apparently reason??!??!?!? Well yes, obviously, but move over so I can watch it too and don’t tell your father.
(We’ll discuss the various creatures that are destined to populate our children’s superegos for the rest of eternity later.)
Kendrick, Indy, Goldie and I have never camped together before. The last time either Kendrick or I camped, we were in our mid-twenties and in a big group, so actual adults – meaning people other than us – were in charge of things like owning stoves and being able to set up tents and such. But over the past few years we’ve learned that the woods are good for our children – our son in particular – and that the woods are good for us. So we bought a tent and decided to figure out how to do this whole “camping as a family” thing, in hopes of making it our thing.
We left on Thursday and stayed through Saturday, our tent pitched at a little spot along the river; it was the kind of “camping lite” place that has a necessities store only a five-minute drive away. We spent the weekend eating far too many marshmallows and telling ghost stories in the dark, and my children asked to watch TV three times. Each time, the response (“no”) was greeted not with desperate pleas or truly expert displays of emotional manipulation or even just flat-out screaming.
They just said “OK.” And then went and played in some dirt.
So let’s talk camping. On the negative side, you have quite literally never seen a human being as dirty as our daughter was at the end of our trip. I’m serious: she was so disgusting that by the time we hit the road I was happier letting our dogs sit in my lap than my adorable two-year-old – and by that point my dogs were accessorized with thousands of those little burr-devils.
Also on the negative side: prior to our trip I purchased two “sleeping pads” off of Amazon, but would like to throw it out there that whoever came up with these items vastly overestimated their ability to create the effect of sleep. There is no sleeping on these sleeping pads; there is only making hideous grunting sounds and being horrified at yourself for sounding like your grandfather, and then waking up and saying things like “Oy gevalt, my aching back!” and then looking for an aspirin and feeling oh god, so very ancient.
It was freezing at night, and we had to pile on top of each other for warmth. Each morning, we woke up to find our tent coated with terrifying devil-horn bugs. My cellphone died, and I had no way to recharge it. Our daughter ran out of clean clothing half a day after we arrived, and stepped in a fire ant pile because she really preferred to be naked and shoeless, thanks. The food was crusted in ash. The drinks were garnished with flies. One morning, it took us an hour and a half to cook six slices of bacon.
It will go down in our family’s personal history as one of the best weekends of our life.