We did it! We braved the rain, a tornado (no joke) and partying neighbors to spend the night in a tent in our backyard for the very first time, and we had a blast. It was just Younger Son and I, although Older Son and hubby were just inside the screen door on the couch. Here’s a play-by-play, with a few lessons we learned along the way.
Keep it simple. I started off with big plans: Break out the old propane camp stove. Keep a roaring campfire going. Cook all our meals outside, including coffee the next morning. That got overwhelming fast. Fortunately, we remembered the sage advice of the National Wildlife Federation, sponsor of the Great American Backyard Campout, to just have fun. We did s’mores and a simple tent. Perfect.
Don’t sweat the weather. If this is the weekend you finally have time for a sleep out and your kids have been looking forward to it all week, don’t let a little rain and wind stop you; unless, of course, the weather is dangerous. Like a tornado. Such as the one that touched down about 3 miles from our home the evening of our campout. It’s a good thing we didn’t learn about it until the next morning, or we probably would’ve cancelled and missed out on a wonderfully cool evening beneath a steady rain. We had rain tarps and extra blankets, it was very cozy. And honestly, there was no storm in our neighborhood.
Let your children help. Setting up a tent for the first time in more than a decade required my complete focus. It was a tad stressful when we lost a stake in the grass. And there’s the little guy over my shoulder, “Can I help? Can I help? Can I help?” It was time to get him busy. We showed him how to do the stakes and zippers, and made a picture list of things to pack for the night: flashlights, books, pillows. He also had the great idea of hiding our foam dart guns and plenty of ammo in the tent, in case older brother ambushed us.
Maintain the bedtime routine. We were both sleepy, had read four stories together and watched the fireflies from our pillows, but my son was still having trouble settling down. On our way back from our third trip to the bathroom, he figured out the problem. “I always fall asleep with a light on! It’s too dark.” We left on the flashlight and he was asleep in minutes.
Take it easy on the s’mores. I think this is self-explanatory.
Know when it’s time to abandon ship. We were doing great. Yes, I awoke to every sound just like I would in a new hotel room. But Younger Son was soundly asleep. Until about 4 a.m. when he started waking and complaining of a tummy ache. See the above warning about too many s’mores. We went into the house to use the bathroom, and that was it for the tent. But it’s all good. What he remembers is the fun, and we’re already making plans for next time.