We have always been a camping family. Our first-born went on his first camping trip when he was 1, as he was born the summer before. All the other children went the very first summer after they were born, whatever age they were then. Sophie being a May baby, her first camping trip was at 5 weeks old. Camping with babies is what we know, it's what we do.
|Some pics of camping through the years|
So it never occurred to us that Sophie would prevent us from going camping, ever. She had gone for her second trip at just over one, while we were still in the blissfully ignorant, "all is well with all our kids" stage. She loved it then. Last year was the only camping-free summer with the birth of our little dude and Sophie's diagnosis. We were itching to go again.
Since this year we have two toddlers at approximately same level of development (albeit totally different temperaments), I did spend a bit more time wondering how it would go. Would we be able to enjoy any downtime at all or would we spend all of our time chasing babies around? But I decided to stop wondering and just do it and see. Here is what we learned:
- Camping with babies is definitely not as relaxing as camping without babies, lol. But we knew that already. Not news.
- It's best to work as a team and employ numerous people to keep eyes on babies to avoid caregiver burnout. We were camping with friends and had 4 older kids between us to alleviate some of the responsibility, for brief periods. This was particularly important for Felix, who at this time appears to be quite the extrovert and being included in big kid events just made his day. They were very good at including him, but really had very little choice as he insisted on following them around like a little baby duck.
- Sometimes it is necessary to place babies in some sort of device to have hands (and eyeballs) free- we brought 3 different carriers and had a double stroller and bike trailer. Thankfully Sophie loves her vehicles and will happily sit in them for a long while, looking at her Thomas books. Little man, not so much (those typical babies can be quite a nuisance sometimes, ahem).
- It is a good idea to modify some activities to suit everyone's needs and abilities. So when we went hiking, we either carried Sophie in a backpack carrier or pulled her in the bike trailer. We also brought the trailer to the beach because while she loves the water, we found she needed breaks from the brightness and noise of the waves. The bike trailer was a quiet little box which she retreated to happily on her own when needed. Then after a break, she'd come out again and resume playing.
- She needed her own "stimming time". Sophie gets pent up energy out by running back and forth in a repetitive pattern. She picked the road for this purpose, I'm sure because she was attracted to its faded grey-coloured linear shape. She loves a good bold line. The road was lined by tall trees on each side which constrasted beautifully with the light blue sky. She ran in her ecstatic way across from one side to another. Since it was a road (seldom used, but a road nonetheless) we placed 2 campchairs there, creating the "Sophie guard" headquarters. The guard would rotate and our roadside sitting area hosted many coffee breaks and silly-children gatherings. It gave passerbys pause for thought too, which was somewhat amusing.
- Bring a few favourite things. Sophie spent many quiet moments looking at her books and playing with her engines. We didn't bring any video viewing devices for her because Sophie seems to associate videos with home and we want to keep it that way. We also want all our kids to enjoy nature in its, well natural form.
- Don't be afraid to take risks. One of our favourite places to visit at this campground is the Grotto, a cove carved in the Niagara escarpment over thousands of years by the cool waters of Georgian Bay. It is rocky, the water is frigid and you need to be quite sure-footed to navigate safely. But the white-rock beach is beautiful, the water a crisp torquoise and the views breathtaking. We almost didn't take Sophie there this year, but then said what the heck, let's try (can always go back, right?). We brought a heavy blanket for her to sit on and placed the sun-warmed smooth rocks on it for her to feel. But after a while she wanted to get up and explore! I held her hand and she walked on the rocks, waded in the icy water and even made a path on the smooth rocky bank. It is probably one of my favourite memories from the entire trip and almost didn't happen, because taking her there was not a "rational thing to do".
Other than the usual "small-kid hassles" (diapers, naps, constant supervision), camping with Sophie wasn't difficult and I'm sure if we didn't have our baby boy along we would say it was downright easy. The challenges didn't stem from Sophie or her special needs, rather from having two small kids requiring the same level of care at once. But such is our life at this time, regardless of where we are. I can honestly say we had a wonderful time, and did manage to find time to relax and swim and hike and enjoy many fireside conversations with lovely friends (after putting exhausted babies down for the night). And in 10 days I don't recall any significant meltdown or tantrum, other than the expected tears from bumps and scrapes or frustration at being redirected from a (usually dangerous) activity.
Here are some pictures.
|Sophie at the beach|
|Quiet time with books|
|Can't resist a smiling at camera photo|
|Ready for a hike|
|The older kids at the Grotto|
I might add some more pics as we keep downloading them from all our respective devices (something should be said about this day and age when one trip is documented on six or seven cameras).