Monday, July 29, 2013

Not a happy camper...2 year olds do not take kindly to sleep deprivation

Jon took me to Bavaria (blog still in draft) for my 30th birthday and we had the most amazing time so I wanted to give him his "dream" trip of family time in nature for his birthday.  Jon and Calvin are going to be in the US during his actual birthday, so I wanted to give him a nice trip while the weather was still warm.  My family used to go camping in Maine every year so I have really wonderful memories of it as a kid and wanted to share that tradition with Jon. He has recently fallen in love with nature, so I thought there would be no better birthday activity than to spend a beautiful Swedish summer weekend camping in the woods by a lake.

I started doing some research on all of the gear and ordered a tent, sleeping bags, camping stove, and two folding camp chairs.  With all of the gear secured, camping menu planned and a camping resort reserved, we were headed out in a rental car to explore Sweden!

We headed up to Falun, Sweden - home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site copper mine - for some scenic camping.  It was predicted to be a beautiful weekend and the weather was surprisingly hot - 84F and a lot of sun.  The night temperatures would be a comfortable 60F, so we all packed long sleeve clothing as tents don't provide too much protection from the temperatures.  All of our sleeping bags were rated to 0C, so I thought we would be ok.

A few things worked against us:

  • The camping resort was really designed for RVs, not tents, so we were assigned a gravel pit site. Not comfortable when you are sleeping on the ground.
  • We don't own a car, so we couldn't scout out camping locations beforehand. I had to rely on websites only and all campsites look a little suspect on the internet.  It's impossible to get a feel for the location or the people who camp at those campgrounds without sketching it out first.
  • We had been packing and moving the entire 4 days prior to this trip so none of us had gotten a good night's sleep in a week or so.  We rescheduled this camping trip at the last minute to take advantage of Jon's vacation time that he had already set aside for the move.
  • We couldn't do a test run of any of our camping gear because we were packing for our move.
Given all of that background, looking back on it, it was clear that we did not set up Calvin for a successful trip.  Though he is a good natured kid, he needs his 12-13 hours of sleep each night and a 3 hour nap each day.  Without sleep, his good naturedness breaks down quickly and you can just see him fall apart at the seams.  Essentially Calvin could NOT sleep in an environment with which he was unfamiliar, so resultantly, none of us slept.  It was also really hot when Calvin "went to bed" and really cold when he woke up.  He was shivering, crying and also refusing to get dressed into warmer clothes.  I'm sure it made sense to him at the time.

We may have gotten 2 collective hours of sleep between midnight and 4am, which needless to say, is not enough to have a happy family.  The campground was noisy and our fellow campers/RV'ers were super close to our tent so I felt really self conscious of Calvin's cries throughout the night.  Also, as soon as Calvin settled down (because the campground was quiet), Bessie started barking at every little noise.  In short, it was a disaster.

Calvin was wide awake at 4am (and upset), so we got up and took advantage of the pre-dawn quietness to take in the scenery that we had missed the day before.  The lake was serene and peaceful and we actually enjoyed feeding the ducks Calvin's Cheerios and watching the sun rise while the moon was still visible.  The lake was glass and reflected the trees beautifully.

Jon took Calvin to the playground by the lake and I decided to pack up the tent and break down everything before they returned.  Jon said the happiest moment of the whole trip was when he returned from their walk to find the tent broken down and packed in the car.  Happy birthday to YOU Jonathan.

By no means was the entire trip a disaster as we learned some very valuable lessons. 
  1. Even the best behaved toddlers refuse to sleep despite being completely exhausted.
  2. Setting up a tent for the first time is difficult while a 2 year old is screaming at you to read him another story.
  3. RV electricity does not equal electricity you can use to charge your cell phones (which both died within 3 hours upon our arrival).
  4. Breaking down a tent is really noisy at 5am but you are never going to see those people again, so whatever. Do what you need to do.
  5. Cutting your losses early on is better than being stubborn and miserable without sleep for 72 hours.  
  6. If your kid is unhappy, nobody is happy.
  7. There really is no replacement for a good night's sleep.
Jon repeatedly told me that he had a good time despite the fact that things didn't go exactly according to plan.  We were able to explore a new beautiful part of Sweden, build some family memories, take amazing pictures and spend time with one another.   You can't ask for much more than that.  Also, if Calvin hadn't woken us up at 4am, we would've missed the most beautiful sunrise over the lake. Some things are worth waking up early for and we were the only people around to watch it happen.  Fortunately Calvin won't remember these initial flubs we make as parents and by the time he remembers camping, we will be seasoned pros and things will run smoothly (fingers crossed!).

So, our tent and sleeping bags are safely stored away until the next trip.  We will try this again after Calvin can sleep comfortably on a cot or whenever we gain enough courage to venture back into the wilderness. All in all, we ended up with the most beautiful pictures and a few good memories.  


  1. Oh boy! You're one brave soul going on an adventure like that! Good for you for trying!! I hope you were able to put your feet up and rest after the fact! How are you feeling?

    1. Brave? Near-sighted perhaps. I'm just glad we called it quits when we did. Normally I'm too stubborn to give into a little adversity but this time I was waving the white flag pretty quickly.

      Feeling good! Getting bigger every day :-)


Leave your thoughts here