08 May 2012
It's Saturday and we have big plans. After a week apart, we need to spend some time together, as a family.
Problem. One of our children is having a bluey.
A "bluey" is one step short of a meltdown. A bluey calls for careful handling and sympathy.
This emotionally fragile child can't face the thought of going places where there's noise. Or crowds. Or cars. No beaches or parks where there's too many people or sand. Or sun.
As Blue Child sobs out these feelings, the other two paw the ground impatiently.
Bring on the adventure! screams every cell in their fun-loving bodies.
Their beach gear is packed and waiting in the hallway.
What to do???
We call a family meeting, trying to find some middle ground.
What could we do that will make everybody happy? we ask our offspring.
We wanna go out! To the Beach!
I wanna stay home! Go nowhere!
Consensus is looking unlikely. Compromise, out of the question.
We need to spend time together but Bluey isn't up to going out, so how about a nice backyard picnic? I offer hopefully.
The groans start; they all think it's lame.
We could build a hut... have a picnic in it...? I throw out, as a last ditch attempt.
Can we put up the tent? someone asks.
Yeah! Put up the tent! Sleep outside! someone else agrees.
Hey, I'd like that, says Bluey.
We all look expectantly at Daddy, the TentMaster.
Sure why not, he says.
And just like that we are camping.
There's something about being under canvas - even if it is in your own backyard.
Do you know, while we were under canvas, nobody asked to watch TV? Nobody wanted Playstation or whinged for treats or asked to "go somewhere fun". Nobody fought with anybody else, or wished for playdates or said they were bored.
Instead, kids help hold tentpoles while their parents try to remember how to put the tent up. Squeals of delight erupt when the door is finally unzipped... negotiations commence about who will sleep where. Endless trips are made to and fro, dragging beanbags and blankets, games and stuffed toys.
Once the tent is decorated to Miss fab's exacting standards (complete with full length mirror and plenty of cushions) no-one goes inside - except to use the loo. The house might as well be a toilet block at a campsite.
We play Superman Go Fish and Spongebob Memory; we ditch Monopoly and have power walking races up the driveway instead. Best butt-wiggle wins.
We play X Factor and crack up at Scrag's dance moves while singing "Chuggington"; we all try to emulate Dash's enthusiastic Stan Walker impression (even Daddy, who is more of an Elvis fan).
I fill my new red milkjug with milk and make endless cups of camp milo outside.
At dinnertime we light the brazier and cook sausies and meat on skewers over the flames.
After icecream, we break out the torch and play Spotlight. Hide'n'Seek is so much more exciting in the dark. Muffled giggles help locate hidden children. Bird calls and whistles help children locate hidden parents. Spotlight is so much fun.
At bedtime we snuggle up together and tell stories (later, we send daddy to bed inside, so at least somebody gets a good night's rest). I teach the kids how to play Truth*. Hilarious. Revealing.
I find out that Miss fab hasn't kissed a boy, and Dash does like a girl (but my lips are forever sealed as to which one).
* (Truth: tell two true things about yourself and one untrue thing and people have to guess which one is false)
Surprisingly the benchseat squabs are quite comfy. Unsurprisingly it gets pretty cold in the middle of the night. One by one, the kids wake up and wriggle in closer. I wrap them around with dressing gowns and spread extra blankets over the top of us all until we are warm and cosy in our canvas cocoon.
Then I lay and listen to them breathing.
One, two, three. Three precious little people who grew inside me and whose every breath and heartbeat is more precious to me than anything else in the world.
The sound of their breathing is sweeter than any symphony.
I lie still and listen and am overcome with love. My babies.
How I love them. How I enjoy hanging out with them.
What a special time we had together, under canvas.
Which just goes to show that you don't need to spend any money or go any place special to have the best weekend ever.
Sometimes all you need to do is put up your tent.