Tag Archives: parent

camping with a toddler: how we survived (and some tips)

OK, so I was dragging my feet. Every now and then, A. would say, “When do you want to go camping again?” and I’d change the subject to what should we have for dinner, or, “Look! Look at the big cat wandering through our backyard!”

The first time we took C. camping was on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. It was September, and C. was nine months old. We hiked two miles along a creek deep into the woods. I held C. on my chest and a few other “essentials” on my back and A. carried everything else: tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, food (he had back spasms the next day). When we came to a suitable campsite, I nursed C. against a log while the mosquitoes buzzed and nipped at me and A. ran off to filter water from a nearby stream.

It was humid and I was exhausted. And I still cherished sleep like a queen cherishes her jewels.

Then, when I laid C. down in a tent within a tent and I said, “Good night,” he freaked the hell out. He was full-on panicking with his fire-alarm cry like, “Um, EXCUSE ME? I’m sleeping WHERE?” So we got him up and sat around a warm fire and smelled the pines and watched the flames dance and spooned him some beans until we all laid down in the tent together.

In the middle of the night, I heard a growl that sounded like a big cat. I nabbed a hysterical C. — now panicking myself — and whispered loudly to A. “Did you hear that?” and A. mumbled something in his half-sleep about how it was probably a bird and I actually believed him and relaxed. But C. was now sleeping with me and kept rolling off the mat and I spent the whole night making sure we didn’t squish him.

Here is a photo after we hiked out — my smile reflects relief that the three of us were alive:

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So, I have to say that I’m pretty awesome for agreeing to go again not even a year later.

On Saturday, we drove to Sequoia along twisting roads, parked and loaded up our packs. We hiked a mile in and C. ran around picking up sticks while we set up camp. A. fired up the jet-boil and we ate a dinner of lentils, cous-cous and long-grain-and-wild rice on a huge platform rock and watched the sun set. And then we all went to bed together, around 8 p.m. We read C. “Harry the Dirty Dog” and told him he was sleeping next to mama and papa and isn’t this fun? C. was wired — he was singing and standing up and saying, “Woah!” and babbling and making us laugh.

This time, C. fell asleep with his little head on my sleeping bag, my cheek squished against the top of his head and his body cradled like a C against mine. And oh my god, I love sleeping next to this sweet little guy who would wake up now and then and look at me and smile and lay his head back down.

We got up with the sun and C. was happy and we ate oatmeal with dates and honey-roasted almonds and took down camp and went to find the majestic Sequoias before the crowds arrived.

And I felt relaxed and more than relieved — I was happy. We did it and C. loved it.

So next time A. asks, “When do you want to go camping again?” I expect I’ll say: “Let’s pick a weekend!”

Here are a few tips for camping with a toddler:

  • Bring something you know know he/she likes to eat. I’m so happy we had two peanut butter sandwiches — one for the evening and one for the morning — that filled up C.’s belly because he wasn’t interested in the oatmeal.
  • Don’t forget the winter hats. Even if you don’t think it will be cold, they pack well and it’s worth it if you need them.
  • Bring one more diaper than you think you’ll need.
  • Tell the toddler well in advance that you’re going to camp and sleep in a tent with mama and papa for one night. I think this helped take away the surprise factor.
  • Bring a water filter. Carrying water and a toddler and, well, everything else, is too much and you might end up breaking your backs.
  • Get a sleeping bag for the little one. We had C. in a fleece sleep sack on his own sleeping pad and he was fine, but I would have gotten more sleep (i.e. worried less) if he was in an actual sleeping bag. We plan to buy one for him before our next trip.
  • Relax and enjoy! Losing one night of sleep isn’t the end of the world — and finding adventures is soul-charging. At least, it is for me.

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curls, purses and gender roles

When C. came into the world, he had a dark mullet that reached down to his neck. That mullet has turned into golden curls, longer in the back. So, occasionally, he gets mistaken as a girl.

Last weekend, A. took C. to a cafe after spending the morning feeding carrots to wild horses.

“I sat C. facing two older women, because, you know, they love babies,” he told me later. “And they did love it, but one of them — who was honestly probably 90 — kept referring to C. as a girl.”

A. looked at me like the woman had lost her bananas.

“I mean, look at him.”

I nodded.

“He looks nothing like a girl.”

Yesterday, I stopped in at Stater Brothers to pick up some pork chops for dinner,  and C. insisted on carrying my purse: “Mama, purse?” I offered to help as he struggled, and he said, “No, no,” in a panicky voice, like I was trying to de-pants him in public.

As he stumbled like a drunkard near the flower section, a woman in her 70s with curly gray hair and thick glasses stopped her cart.

“Aw,” she said. “How old is she?”

“Oh, he’s 17 months,” I said, correcting her. “He’s a boy.”

And then, later, I thought to myself, “Why does it matter? Who cares if they call him a girl?”

C. is starting to catch on to the concept of female and male.

Last week, he said to me, “Mama, penis?”

“No, no, honey,” I said. “Mama doesn’t have a penis. You and papa have penises.”

Later that day, he pulled a bra from my drawer.

“Mama, bra?” he said, pointing to my breasts. “Yes,” I said. “Mama wears a bra. Papa doesn’t wear a bra.”

(Though, with A.’s sense of humor, C.’s bound to be confused.)

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Yesterday, at the playground, C. watched a 5-year-old climb on the structure. It was his first time assigning a gender to another kid when he said: “Girl, up, steps.” He watched her, captivated, and when she said, “Boo!” at him, he giggled hysterically. “Nen, nen,” he said [“again, again”]. It was almost as if he had his first crush, his eyes danced with happiness watching her run around.

Now that he’s noticing the differences, I’m becoming more and aware of what A. and I — and society — communicate to C. about gender.

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the land of meltdowns

Last week, A. and I crossed into the land of meltdowns (said with a booming voice) where storms can unleash with little warning. Our little helper — who loves to sweep, rubs down the floor with tissues and toddles to the trash can to throw away litter — gave me his first forceful “NO!” when I tried to change his diaper. It was accompanied by a little kick and I raised my eyebrow, like, “Really? You’re going to go there?”

In general, this kid is awesome. He wakes up in his crib and reads to his llama and owl for an hour. The other day I heard him counting. He giggles like crazy and has a new way of saying, “Hi!” that brightens up a room. He sings to himself, and says things like, “Mama, hat, on” when he wants me to put on a hat and “Book, couch” when he wants to read with me. He says “mama, nine” (that’s wine) and “papa, beer.” (Hmmmm…) He always says please (“peas”) and he grabs my face to give me kisses.

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And now there is this budding streak of independence and “no” is his new favorite word. Last week, he tried to shake off my hand and run into the street. I grabbed him, jerked him to safety and made him look me in the eye while I told him why that wasn’t OK. Major Meltdown. (A few drivers flashed me sympathetic smiles.) He has a new fascination with outlets and crouches down to see if he can look into the wall. Cool! Electricity! He drags us objects to plug in and we shake our heads, “No, buddy, how about we don’t plug in the curling iron where you can step on it?” Meltdown. He loves the food processor plunger, but we decided that hey, maybe that’s not a great toy so let’s lock that cabinet. Meltdown.

He’s only 16 1/2 months, but I’m seeing a rapid change. It’s natural development and A. and I agree that we’d worry if he didn’t go through this stage. And, really, he’s so much easier than when he was an infant and I had a trillion hormones coursing through me and his cries made me want to crawl into a corner, curl into a ball and rock. So much easier.

But I’m getting prepared for this new stage: I plan to put on a heavy raincoat and boots AND carry an umbrella as we enter the land of meltdowns.

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5 things I didn’t know about babies till I had one

When I was pregnant, I consumed everything I could find about pregnancy and life with a newborn. Also, it was my job — I was a co-host of a short-term NPR blog called The Baby Project. But despite all the time I spent preparing — literally months — there were still a few things that I didn’t know till C. was born. I learned these tips from friends and books over the past three months.

1. You actually have to order — and pay for — your baby’s birth certificate. I had no idea. I thought it would arrive in the mail, just like the social security card. Oh no, not so. You can get it online, but it costs extra loot. I thought the convenience was worth it.

2. When changing a diaper, consider using a hairdryer. On a low setting. Not directly on the wet baby, but near him or her. Someone in our birthing class passed on this tip, and little C. stopped crying during changes. In fact, changing is one of his favorite times of the day now — lots of giggles and coos.

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