My View: My Family Unplugs - and Reconnects - With the Great American Backyard Campout

Cool California Mom Shares How She and Camping Came to Be

06-17-2010 // Suzanne Delzio, camper, San Diego, CA
Suzanne Delzio

When, a year after we separated, my ex spent a small fortune going to Russia to acquire a bride (mail order has now become more sophisticated, more interactive), I decided it was time I picked up a lust-object of my own: a rough and ready, sleek and sexy Fleetwood Sequoia, one of the biggest tent trailers you can buy.

“You didn’t even think about this!” my friend scolded from the front step of my 24-foot, 5,400-pound fun-factory that—even completely collapsed—stretched higher than my hairline. “You just went out and bought it! Didn’t you!”

Yeah? So?

“How are you going to set this up and pull it with a minivan? A MINIVAN!”

I reassured her that I’d talked the numbers and weights over with the salesperson and everything would be just fine.

“And which numbers and weights are those?” she asked.

The big ones?

She rolled her eyes. “How you’re going to pull this off by yourself is beyond me. Camping is hard work!”

I cringed. What had I gotten myself into?

As a single mother with no immediate family nearby, I felt an urgent need to congregate with other families so that my son and daughter could see good men in action: changing diapers, wiping noses and—okay—playing basketball and heaving the bikes onto the bike racks.

Where initially I was concerned that as a single mom, I wouldn’t be prime target for inclusion in others’ family camping, I quickly had my phone ringing.  And the people I began camping with were cool: they let their kids faceplant in the sand and scream into the woods, throw rocks, get filthy and even eat the baked potato that rolled under the picnic table.  In other words, they let their kids express their wild natures, something often frowned upon in our increasingly button-downed world.  Hallelujah!

Fast forward six years to 2010 and, through the National Wildlife Federation, we’re embarking on our first Great American Backyard Campout! Stay-camping, yard-cationing—it’s all the rage right now. With three other families coming, I know the kids will ditch their iTouches and Xbox controllers for the far better options of flashlight tag, basketball, skateboarding , smores and ghost stories by the fire with good friends.

A crockpot of sauce over three pounds pasta, garlic bread in the oven, pre-made salad fancied up with grape tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese and heck if we haven’t fed an army of campers.  My plan is to reserve the patio table for adults, festoon it with wine, tea, brie, olives, crackers, raspberries, apples and call it off limits to kids. With parents in their rightful place on the cushy chairs, we will oversee our ‘tweens in the manner most appropriate to their developmental level: listen for screaming, watch for blood. It’s going to be a great time.

While the tent trailer eventually turned into a Class C RV and the single status transformed into cautious, suspicious, kid-focused monogamy, I give my newly-divorced self credit for diving—hand-crank first—into an outdoor lifestyle.  On one of our first camping trips, my 9-year-old video-game-loving son ran up to me after a tidepool excursion to ask, “Why do they even make Nintendos and Game Cubes when all kids really want to do is play outside, throw stuff and build forts?”  I was hooked.   And six years later, my impulse buy has proven much more meaningful, exciting and comforting than that Russian purchase my ex now wishes could be returned to the showroom. 

Join us! Visit www.backyardcampout.org to register and learn more about NWF's annual Great American Backyard Campout.

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