|BWI of Southeastern Washington||
Last week I took my toddler camping. It wasn’t the first time. We love camping, hiking, and all things summer-outdoorsy. We always take S with us, and he does very well. This time, it was a little more intense. We didn’t just go for an overnight jaunt in the backyard. Oh, no. We returned for three nights to my hubby’s favorite annual childhood camping destination: The St. Joe River in Idaho. I love this place. It’s a gorgeous, secluded corner of serenity in the mountains. Pictures cannot possibly do it justice. It’s a magical spot. The kind of place that makes you forget you even own a smart phone (except for that handy camera feature).
The only downside: It took 5 hours in the car. Did I mention we took our toddler with us? Yeah, the drive was a bit rough. But considering the circumstances, he did very well. We stopped once for lunch (during which he ate nothing, but ran nonstop for 20 minutes), and once for gas. All in all, S took about a 30-minute nap (Oh baby days, sometimes I sure miss you!). Why did I agree to this? By the time we arrived at our campsite, we were all a bit crabby.
Until we stepped out of the car.
Oh yeah, that’s why. We were at least 15 minutes from the nearest “town,” with direct river access that drowned out the few neighbors nearby, and mountains on both sides. Let the relaxing begin! Now, anyone who has ever taken small children on vacation knows that it’s not usually much of a vacation for the parents. It’s a lot of work. Camping can be especially difficult because of the inherent dangers that come with fire, water access, and wandering off. But I was surprised by how well this specific site helped contain the children. It had a large grassy area, a separate beach with direct water access, and an excellent swimming area (Plus, there was a statewide fire ban). We hung out with family all day, dipped in the river to cool down, and fished periodically.
I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way it was that easy. Well, okay, there was one little challenge. The challenge I expect every time we go camping: Naptime. You know, that sacred slice of coveted peace when a child can recharge and become (somewhat) human again. When a mother can actually take her eyes off of her toddler for a few minutes and do something for herself (or just do nothing). Kids never seem to nap normally when you are away from home (and routines), and when the surroundings are exciting and boiling hot, there is little hope for rest unless you have a backup plan.
For us, it's babywearing. We are diligent to take a carrier with us wherever we go. Sorry, did I say a carrier? Usually it’s a couple. For camping, we always take a soft-structured (buckle) carrier for hiking and quick ups. If we will have water access, the mesh ring sling gets thrown in. And since we are a wrapping family, we like to have a wrap for comfy snuggles and versatile carries, but as I only have a couple of them, I’m not exactly anxious to drag them through the dirt. So we invested in a “beater” wrap. In this case, we got ourselves a used Inda Jani. Budget-friendly, cushy on the shoulders, and strong enough to carry a horse (or so I was told by the friend that sold it to me), it was definitely worth a try.
You guys. This wrap is a workhorse. I wrapped my 27-lb. toddler on my front and walked around for 45 minutes in a feeble attempt to put him to sleep, and my back & shoulders had no complaints afterward. Sure, it was a bit hot, but considering that the thermometer read 103°F, any babywearing comes with a bit of sweat. It was surprisingly breathable despite its blankety texture. Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about pulls and stains. (And actually, it still doesn’t have any!)
Pro: Babywearing almost always makes S happy. He stopped fussing and instantly relaxed against my chest. Ahh, snuggles.
Con: He didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Alas, the nap strike continued.
That’s when I decided to introduce him to kayaking. Since I had a baby, I’ve only taken my kayak out once or twice, and I was eager to take advantage of our prime water access. Sure, Grandma and Grandpa would have been happy to watch S, but I was certain our little fish would love the boat. I was right. He was mesmerized by the quiet ripples emanating from the bow, the towering rocks cliffs, and duck parades quacking alongside us. He sat still between my legs and even “helped” paddle. And apparently, kayaking is even more relaxing for him than it is for me, because before long I realized he was fast asleep! *Fist pump*
In fact, I took him on 4 long kayak rides over the course of our stay: Once I forgot to bring his pacifier, and the other three times he slept. *Lightbulb* I think we discovered our miracle nap inducer! I get exercise and cuddles, and S gets a nap complete with natural white noise.
Once we found a way to get him a little bit of rest, we were really able to enjoy our surroundings even more. Of course we continued to babywear, but more for fun and walks than for sleep. The water sling was pulled out once or twice, but since our swimming area was very shallow, S was happier sitting in the water throwing rocks (and honestly, who wouldn’t be?). We hiked up the creek utilizing the Tula, which allowed for a few quick ups as we got in and out of the car at new fishing holes. When my hubby found a particularly promising hole, I buckled S on my back and hiked on the trails.
The rest of the days we relaxed, read books, and played. After S went to bed, we spent our evenings under the stars, spotting meteors accompanied by the deafening chorus of frogs. It was another fantastic reminder of just how simply we can live, and the need to cherish these moments as our family grows and changes so quickly.
Our vacation, like most, was quite a bit of work for this mama. The extremely long car ride there and back, sweltering heat, nap strikes, and wrangling a rambunctious toddler made for weary evenings. But sitting beside the babbling river watching blue heron glide through the trees, snuggling my rapidly growing boy, counting shooting stars like children, and drinking in the richness of our surroundings rejuvenated my soul. Yes, trips like this are tough and tiring, but they are also refreshingly joyful.
Just like motherhood. My hands are full, but so is my heart.
Unless I’m babywearing. Then my hands are free!
What adventures do you take your carriers on? Share below!