“Hey guys, wanna go camping?” our friends, who are avid campers and have three kids, suggested a few weeks ago.

Of course, my 4-year-old son was all in! “We can fish and sleep in a tent and hunt a bear for dinner!”

I’d been camping before but never with a child. And my camping resume includes one night in a tent and another time where we slept in a decked-out motorhome for two nights.

So here is the brutal honest truth about tent camping with kids:

They love fire. They love burning things. They will ask if they can throw wood on the fire, paper plates, used wet wipes, plastic toys, or live bugs. They will stand too close to the fire. They will poke the fire. They will marvel at the fire. They will give you repeated heart attacks all weekend long.

It’s dirty. Layers of sunscreen, insect repellant, sweat, tears, sticky juice, campfire ash, and sand will find its way into every nook and cranny of your body. You’ll spend much of your time chiming at kids to take their shoes off before going into the tent, and you’ll still somehow find yourself sleeping in sand. Every single washable thing you bring camping will need to be washed when you get home. You’ll spend days catching up on laundry that has mysterious stains and reeks of campfire… and regret.

It’s dark. Fine, it’s all nice sitting next to a fire in the darkness, but when you constantly need a flashlight and can only see within that beam of light, it gets tiresome. “Mommy, where are my shoes?” “I lost my cup.” “Where is my stuffed animal?” I don’t like the idea that there could be someone standing five feet away and I wouldn’t know it.

But the darkness can be a blessing too…. You don’t have to see all the mosquitoes and other critters buzzing around your head or climbing in your bed.

There are no mirrors. I’m not vain at all, but I never realized how often you see your own reflection, until you don’t… and then you do. And you’re shocked and horrified. The first time you catch your own reflection in a public camping washroom after a day or two of camping, you literally can’t believe your own eyes. There are dirty smudges on your face and your hair is indescribably frizzed, not to mention the strange hue to your skin: sunburn mixed with sunscreen, bug repellant, sweat, and maybe even a few tears.

Everything is a friggin production. I’m a MAJOR coffee person, and when I wake up it’s the first thing I want (ahem, need). This was my morning coffee process the first morning of camping: find the one-pot machine, find a mug, find the little baggie of ground coffee in one of the three bins of stuff. Then seek out a clean spoon for said coffee and give up on that so pour coffee (which spills on the ground) into the filter, then walk to the outlet IN THE TREES. Try to plug it in but realize the cord is too short, so trek back to the campsite, find the extension cord in one of the three bins of crap, then walk back in the trees to plug it in. Find a bucket and walk to the water spigot in the opposite direction of the outlet, bring the water back, pour it into the coffee machine (which also spills on the ground), and turn it on. Wait patiently while grinding teeth in early morning frustration. Get cup of coffee and walk it carefully back to the campsite in the trees without spilling it and start searching for the little bag of sugar in the three bins of sh*t. Give up and drink it black.

So you’re probably presuming I won’t go camping again. I will. Because our 4-year-old son looooved it (of course HE did: he got to do all the fun stuff associated with camping). But we’ll do it different next time. We’ll pack less and more strategically. We’ll bring simpler things for meals. We’ll plan better. We’ll go into it knowing more. And we’ll bring instant coffee.

A full-time work-from-home mom of a toddler, Jennifer Cox (our “Supermom in Training”) loves dabbling in healthy cooking, craft projects, family outings, and more, sharing with readers everything she knows about being an (almost) superhero mommy.

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