There were four in a tent … our first family camping experience

So, camping… If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll have seen that a few weeks ago we had our first family camping trip. I was apprehensive to say the least. Four of us in a tent during a heat wave. What were we thinking?!

Well, let me tell you now that I’ve recovered two weeks on…

Actually, I shouldn’t be so dramatic. I did really enjoy the parts were we weren’t trying to sleep. We arrived at the campsite in Oxwich, Gower, and it was fine. We pitched up in a little village with 18 (yes, EIGHTEEN!) friends and children, got most of the tent up while the boys napped in the car (they’d fallen asleep on the drive over, which was perfect timing), and sat in our new camping chairs eating Mr Whippy from the ice cream van.

The children all played happily (mostly bouncing on the air beds in our tent (I came to regret that later), while the adults finished putting their tents up and chatted. The weather was beautiful, and we even managed to get a distant view of the Red Arrows in the Wales Air Show from the camp.

I honestly was loving it, and started imagining us camping regularly. Packing up the cars on a Friday morning and heading off straight from work. This is the new us. We are now proper outdoorsy and I have surfy waves in my hair. Ok, ok, I needed to hold my horses, but I really was loving it.

The only snag was the size of our tent, and I have to admit I had mega tent jealousy when I saw the others’. Stew randomly picked up a four-man tent from Aldi on a whim, before we even knew our friends were going camping, and I’m sure there’s an unwritten rule in camping that you buy a tent designed for at least two more men than you actually are. So as a family of four, we should have at least a six-man tent.

Plus, we have no porch. This is a biggie. Who buys a tent with no porch? Apart from Stew, of course…

Anyway, back to the perfect afternoon…

Seeing as we were in Oxwich and less than five minutes from the beach, we decided to make the most of the early evening sun and headed for a paddle after our barbecue.

The boys were a bit overexcited, and we thought half an hour at the beach just the four of us might calm them down before bed.

It was definitely a good move. Not because it got them ready for sleep, but because it was so beautiful. The sun was really low in the sky and making the beach golden, and the boys were so happy to be able to go in the sea. The biggest put his swimmies on, and it felt like we were on holiday. The littlest, on the other hand, refused to take his clothes off when we offered his trunks, but within minutes of getting onto the sand stripped off completely and paddled naked.

The beach was still full at 7pm, and there was a wedding party having photos taken near the water’s edge. We threw stones in the sea, ran away from waves, and watched a group of surfers build a huge fire on the sand. Reluctantly, we left before the sun set so we could get back up to our tent while it was still light.

Ok, from now on is where it started to go a bit wrong. Well, after the toasted marshmallows, which turned into full on sweet kebabs, which might well have been the highlight for one little man…

Usually, we’re pretty good with bedtime. We take the boys up at around 7.30pm and they’re asleep generally between 8pm and 8.20pm. This went completely out of the window – for the biggest, anyway. Our littlest boy loves to sleep, and tells us when he’s ready for bed. It was no different while we were camping. He started to get a bit grouchy, asked for his blanket and bottle, and fell asleep fairly quickly in his new dinosaur sleeping bag. What a star.

The biggest boy, on the other hand, was having so much fun with his friends that there was no getting him to bed. And really, we couldn’t expect him to fall asleep while everyone else was out having fun.

We were enjoying spending time with our friends too, and trying to force bedtime wasn’t appealing. It’s hard to even admit this, but it was past 11pm by the time I decided enough was enough and he had to go to bed. He was shattered, but not willing to drop.

We went to brush his teeth, tucked him into his panda sleeping bag and thought it was going well. Then the questions started – “why are my friends still up?” “why isn’t everyone in bed?” “what’s that noise?” Then he didn’t want me to lay next to him, he wanted Stew, then I realised that the other air bed – the one all the children had been jumping on – was pretty much flat and I was laying on the floor. Luckily, my weight on one side meant our littlest boy was propped up and looked as snug as a bug.

It was also cold. Really cold. As in my knees felt like they were seizing up. I’d been so careful to pack the lightest pair of pyjamas I own – because, heat wave – and all I could think was that I needed my mega thick legging pyjamas. I slept (or tried to) in a hoodie. I thought we were a bit mad buying new sleeping bags for the boys (but they were cute and wouldn’t be in stock by the time we needed them if we hadn’t picked them up), but I’m so glad we took them so at least they weren’t cold.

We eventually got to sleep (after much muttering of ‘this is just ridiculous, what on earth are we doing in a tent?’ and evil looks in Stew’s direction), but it was a disturbed night, and do you know what time we were up? Have  guess, go on … we didn’t go to sleep until gone midnight, so…

SIX. A.M.

Yes, 6am. I could not have been in a worse mood. The second someone in another tent moved, our biggest boy was awake and convinced all his friends were too. I should apologise to them all because he only has one volume (loud), and in his overly excited way started booming about going to the park (which wasn’t open for another three hours). So fairly soon, our whole little village was awake and cooking breakfast.

Of course, I’d forgotten dry shampoo and had a mega greasy fringe from spraying suncream on my head the day before, was convinced I’d get food poisoning from attempting to cook bacon on a £1 disposable barbecue, and just wanted to curl up and go back to sleep.

It was nice to have a cup of tea and sit and chat with the girls again while the children played (launching themselves onto whichever adult was brave enough to lay on the inflatable settee), and we managed to chill a bit between heading down to the park and Stew packing everything up before most people were even out of their PJs!

The boys were a bit grouchy because of the lack of sleep, and the sun had disappeared, so instead of going to the beach with the others we decided to drive into Mumbles to watch the Red Arrows in the second day of the Air Show. In my typical style (much to Stew’s exasperation) I had a particular photo in mind that I wasn’t going to let us leave without getting. So we pulled in at the entrance to Oxwich, all piled out of the car, propped my camera on self timer on the roof (on a stack of CDs for extra height), jumped into my favourite bus stop and smiled for a photo.

Even this wasn’t without drama as a fire 4×4 came flying around the corner and nearly hit our car, and we nearly drove off without one of our camping chairs, which had fallen out of the boot. But we got the picture, and that’s the main thing.

Onto the Air Show … we weren’t sure where we were heading to, and ended up coming out at the top of Mumbles, where we randomly pulled into a car park. We ended up having the best seats in the house! We set up our camping chairs (good thing we didn’t lose the one that fell out), got our blankets out as it suddenly turned very cold, nibbled on some Mini Rolls and waited for the planes.

The boys have been watching the Red Arrows at the Trooping the Colour for weeks now, and clap and cheer from the settee, so I was really excited to see how they reacted to seeing them in real life. And they didn’t disappoint. From the moment the planes swooped over the hills with their red, white and blue smoke, the boys were captivated. I’m so pleased we made it there to see them, especially when it started to pour down and we realised we could have been getting soaked on the beach.

We had a quick stop-off for pizza and decided to head home as it was wet and we were all so tired. I felt like I’d had a big night out – my throat was croaky, my head hurt and my muscles were aching. The boys fell asleep in the car (no surprise there) and it was a struggle for me to keep my eyes open. When we got home, this happened. The biggest boy, who never naps, refused to stay awake, and the littlest fell back to sleep the moment he was put down. We were broken.

So, camping… Would we do it again? Honestly, I’m torn. I loved all of Saturday, and Sunday could have been lovely if it was sunny, but I hated the whole night. I think if we went again we’d need to be strict on getting the biggest boy to bed earlier, and somehow keep him asleep for longer. It wouldn’t be easy, but would solve a lot of grumpiness the next day.

As much as I’m against it, I know that the minute Stew asks if I want to go away for the weekend I’ll say yes … tent or not. But can someone buy me one with a porch? Pleeeeeaaaaase?!

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