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Confessions of a working mother: Happy camping was an uphill battle for me

By Karen Ireland

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em that was my motto last week as I took a sneaky day off and, yes, headed for the mountains on St Patrick’s Day.

After months of being a mountain-widow I finally agreed to join the boys in a day outdoors.

Well I can’t call it a day in the mountains as, by the time we all agreed to go, got everyone suitably dressed, packed and unpacked the rucksacks, stopped at a friend’s to borrow a small gas stove, stopped to pick up some more food supplies, the day was half over as we made our way into the Mournes.

We had four children in total — (I always seem to end up with an extra one regardless of where I go and it is always a boy). This time Jesse brought a friend along on our mini adventure.

We parked at Trassey Track and set off. The boys all had their wee backpacks — Tom was carrying everything we might need, bar the kitchen sink, and I was responsible for the dog.

Much as it pains me to admit it I did enjoy our walk — I would love to call it a ‘hike’ but on returning home and working it out Tom reckons we only walked about a total of three miles — one and a half each way.

My problems, however, started when we did the ‘camping thing’. The idea was to look for a suitable spot close to the river with open space to play and somewhere flat to pitch the tent.

However, my mind which was doing overtime on how far we’d walked and that we would have to walk all the way back, and Teo’s five-year-old tummy which couldn’t go any further — dictated that we set up camp almost on the river underneath a bridge.

This was when I was well and truly out of my comfort zone. The boys were meant to be pitching the tent under instructions from Tom while he started cooking the lunch of sausages and bacon baps.

This left me in the role of supervisor or chief worrier. Tom said it felt like he was out with a beginners’ group — me being the most clueless.

However, my two greatest fears — fire and water — were a little too close to each other for my liking and I just couldn’t relax. As Tom happily cooked away and the boys slipped and slid their way back and forth across the rocks — I was writing ‘Family Lost in the Mournes’ and ‘Tragic Drowning Accident’ headlines in my head.

All Tom’s training and those weeks when I have been home alone — lead my head to know we were all in safe hands and that he had everything under control but my heart still lurched when one of the boys went a little too close to the water or, in Teo’s case, a little too close to the gas stove.

The truth was I just couldn’t relax. I wanted to but felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb with my little explorers, but for whatever reason God seems to have skipped over the camping gene with me. Not wanting to be a spoilsport I endured it for as long as possible before insisting we needed to make it back before the chemist closed and it was time to pack up.

Once again with the tent happily inside the rucksack and the water far enough behind us, I was quite happy with the ‘hike’ back to the car.

I did feel guilty the whole day that I couldn’t get into it more – but I have to keep reminding myself that this is just one day and one activity. I am not a complete killjoy (I hope).

So I have decided the next outing the headlines will read a little more like this ‘ Family Feast on Popcorn Frenzy’.

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