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Are Air Mattresses Evil?

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It’s time for another the first blogisode of Q & A with TTTM! Today’s theme is Camping with Kids. Enjoy.

Hello, lovely Friends from the Interwebs! I spent the day cleaning up after our family’s third camping trip of the summer – it is a Summer Camping Spectacular around here for sure. While I was cleaning up, I was also mentally answering a few of the many (completely fictional) questions that you, my dear readers (hopefully not fictional), have sent in about camping with your family.  This information has been finely honed over years of camping with my kids and my husband, and I hope it encourages you in your own family camping adventures. Let’s begin, shall we?

Question: How do you manage your kid’s electronic screen time on camping trips? Do you bring a portable DVD player AND the Nintendo DS, and what type of generator do you use for the XBox and/or Playstation and the TV?

TTTM Answers: Sticks. And pinecones. Rocks, weird tree moss, and bugs. Also plastic army men. That is what my kids play with when we are camping, quite happily, in a way they never would at home. If they need a break, they can read a book.  This last weekend there were also a lot of card games. A LOT.

I am not going to lie, however, Interweb Friends. They do bring their DS’s, and they are allowed to play them In the Morning Before Mommy is Awake IF THEY ARE QUIET. Because Mommy needs her sleep, so they MUST BE QUIET. But that is it, without exception.

So, mostly sticks. No generators.

Question: TTTM, please help me, I think my marriage is in trouble. My husband and I have had some of the most viciously whispered, middle of the night fights of our marriage on our recent camping trips, and I don’t know what to do. It seems that every air mattress we buy springs a leak within two nights of first using it, no matter how careful we are. So while we may go to sleep initially in seductive, air-cushioned comfort, I inevitably wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning on the cold, hard, rocky ground. And every time my husband moves, I move. And then the pump breaks, or the pump batteries die, and then I’m elbowing him at 4 a.m. demanding that he wake UP NOW and BLOW UP THIS MATTRESS, cause MOMMY NEEDS HER SLEEP.

TTTM Answers: My, my, what a coincidence that you and I share similar sleep, um, needs. Anyhoo, here’s the deal, and I’m gonna call it like I see it. Air mattresses may be of the Devil. The signs are all there – seductive promises that are broken, injury and heartbreak, relational discord. I’m just sayin’.

We have had the same experience, they just don’t stay inflated. Once, we had a brand new air mattress, and in our overconfidence that it would last the measly two nights of our trip, we only brought the air pump that plugged into the car lighter power thingy. Which meant that at 3 a.m., when I could no longer stand it, my husband and I were dragging it out of the tent, over the sleeping children to the car to re-inflate. What we said to each other in those moments, I will tell you, they were not Spirit-filled words of encouragement, or of building up, or love.

Our last experience with The Deceiver That Is An Air Mattress led us to put them behind us, and lo, we invested in two self-inflating sleeping pads from REI. Our experience with these new options over our recent three-night trip has led me to a time of increased hope for my own marriage, and perhaps yours. While they are not as comfy as a newly inflated air mattress, I now recognize those unpure thoughts for what they are, and with a possible dose of Ibuprofen and some individual adjustments, they were just great. And there was no stress about how soon they would need re-inflated, or when I’d have to elbow my sweet honey. And no vicious whispers. None. Just peace, my friend, and that is what I wish for you. Step away from the air mattress.

Question: Do you have any cleaning tips, or special home remedies or potions for the socks my kids wear camping? Because after a full day of dirt, creek splashing, campfires and sweat, they just reek. What can I do?

TTTM Answers: Burn them. Throw them in the campfire and burn them. There is no other solution. Thank you for your question.

Question: Don’t you feel a little bit guilty or silly  about the time and money you spend to pretend you are homeless, to recreate a temporary home in the woods with a wholly separate set of bedding, shelter, cooking utensils, etc., when in fact so many of God’s children live in squalor that doesn’t even approach the comfort you experience when you are “roughing it”? What kind of example are you setting for your children?

TTTM Answers: Oy, that one kinda hurts. Especially after purchasing the kinda spendy sleeping pads, I did wrestle with that, I did. But here’s where I came out.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again –  when my family goes camping, we are frequently our best selves. My kids entertain themselves with sticks, and share, and they take turns (relatively helpfully) on dish duty. This weekend, you couldn’t beat my 5 year old away from the wash basin. No easy-peasy drying for him, oh, no.

My husband played endless rounds of a Boy Scout card game that involved not knowing the rules. And then making up new rules. To know my logical, strategically oriented husband would be to understand how deeply, deeply difficult this was for him. And my boys had glorious uninterrupted daddy time the whole time.

This summer, we’ve learned a lot about huckleberry picking, and desert weather patterns, and what types of objects burn fastest in the campfire and why we can’t set the end of a stick on fire and then swing it like a sword. We tried out a pie iron and caught crawdads and waded in a creek and found out that traditional unflavored marshmallows really are best for S’mores.

And my boys carried heavy water jugs from the pump hundreds of feet away, and next time we talk about our World Vision sponsor kids without any running water, I can remind them of that. And when we talk about conservation, and they learn about the environment, I hope they’ll remember the creeks, and the berries and the waterfalls and the bugs. And next time my husband or I don’t have time to play a game because we have to answer one more email or check one last thing online, I hope they have memories of S’mores and card games to carry them through.

So, no, I don’t think it’s silly. I think it’s one of the best ways we’ve found to be fully present as a family, to love each other without the distractions of home that lead us to think that we are responsible for what we have, that we have built this family, and that we don’t need any One else.

Hmmmm. I really wish I had the perfect scripture to end with here, but maybe you can suggest one?

2 responses »

  1. We have a self inflating queen mattress that’s like two mattresses on top of each other. Heaven, pure heaven!! We just endured a four night camping excursion. My kids didn’t even bring their iPods 🙂 We had an amazing time. Have you heard of Camp Dakota Campground. It’s the bomb. We’re going back in October, but we’ll be staying in one of their yurts that has a pool table.


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