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Tahoe Dad: Daddy Boot Camp status report

“So, how did it go with our little wilderness camper?” Wifey asks.

“Umm … Well, I suppose,” I respond.

It’s true, more or less.

Jane and I managed to dodge most of the Memorial Day Weekend rain. We did have some fun fishing and exploring. And even though I couldn’t quite find the right combination of ultimatums and explanations to convince Jane that going to bed inside a sleeping bag was the correct procedure for camping, I was able to keep her warm. Thankfully I brought along a small blanket that I put under her and above her sleeping pad and I tucked all of our extra clothing around her curled up onesie body like building a wall around a castle, then re-tucked her sleeping bag “cover” once she had fallen asleep.

Of course, all of this was thrown on its head about an hour after I had drifted off to sleep when I heard…

“Daddy?”

“Yes, Jane.”

“I have to go pee.”

“OK.”

This brings up an important note to any adventurous backcountry campers with little kids in tow; don’t opt for the onesie pajamas. Even though logically you think these are going to be the warmest option for a little girl who doesn’t want to actually get into a sleeping bag, they have the unfortunate repercussion of making for a unnecessarily long, cold and sloppy midnight trip to the outdoor potty.

So, all that aside, the trip was a success.

Jane enjoyed reeling in the fishing line, even though no fish were caught. We did quite a lot of ukulele playing to her stories and nursery rhymes. We ate simple camping fare, without “cafeteria”-style multitudinous options.

“I don’t like the rice, Daddy. It’s spicy.”

“That’s all we have, Jane.”

“I don’t want to eat it.”

“I was hoping we could put some fish with it. That would have been really neat wouldn’t it?”

“Un hunh.”

“Will you have a little anyway?”

Silence ensues, so I resort to the default manipulation strategy: “I have a little hot chocolate for us, if you eat your dinner.”

“Three bites.”

“How about six bites?”

“Five.”

“OK Jane, five big bites.”

“OK, Daddy.”

Ah yes, the power of bribery and negotiation.

So, overall I’m happy with the trip. I even got to sneak in some bouldering in a really amazing cave, while Jane played contentedly in the dirt for nearly an hour just as I was originally hoping.

Does this mean that Jane is completely over her defiance and now a model of 4-year-old obedience and tranquility? Definitely not.

But I feel as though we are improving. Our older son Michael really wants to learn how to fish now and Jane is proud of the little knowledge about fishing that she has managed to accumulate: The sticky thing goes on the hook and then the hook goes in the water. Yeah, that’s about as far as both she and I are with our fishing knowledge at the moment, but it’s more than Michael, and Jane is keenly aware of that fact. She doesn’t necessarily lord it over him, but it alters the power-dynamic between the two of them and it seems to help.

Jane is a unique, strong-willed and intense little kid. But she also happens to enjoy hanging out in the drizzle by the side of a river looking for fish, and doesn’t mind playing and sleeping in the dirt. It feels like some things about raising kids haven’t changed for a thousand years and spending time fishing and camping might just bring us closer to that original father-child connection.

M.C. Behm’s columns appear once a month in the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He is a full-time resident of South Lake Tahoe and author of the forthcoming novel “The Elixir of Yosemite.” To learn more or respond to columns visit http://www.mcbehm.com or email mcbehmbooks@gmail.com.


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