|Not our actual family, obviously.|
Since Oliver’s arrival some two months ago, we have invested in quite a bit of kit as you might imagine. One piece of baby ephemera however seems to have it in for me. A baby tent – you know the sort of thing, you see them dotted along beaches with their little occupants lying in sandy state – was an early purchase before Oliver was even born.
I didn’t want to miss out on the family fun we had been enjoying up until that point at Mullaloo but equally didn’t want to risk turning our new baby into a tiny human fried egg. So after a trawl around Big W, I picked out what appeared to be the most idiot-proof tent on the market.
Idiot-proof because an idiot – ie me – would most likely be attempting to erect the tent while holding a baby, a bag of towels and some sunscreen.
It all seemed so simple according to the smiling, happy family photographed on the tent’s label. Look how organised we are, they appeared to be saying, we have a baby, a tent, and yes, we’re having the time of our sweet lives. No swearing was employed in the erection of our tent, no sir. And when we want to go home after our jolly day on the sand, we’ll just fold things up, slip them into the sheath and pop home for no doubt something delicious on the barbie.
Lies. All lies.
For a start, you need to be able to be fully conversant with ancient Norse to comprehend the instructions. They were written by somebody with a cruel sense of humour, or at least a spooky anticipation that I would be trying to make sense of them. Despite the fact that according to the marketing material it appears a toddler-age child could put the tent up, I was stumped from the off.
I do not have a good record of putting things that people want to sit under up. For Henry’s 10th birthday I borrowed a tent so that his friends could have a camp out. I realised after banging the final tent peg into the hard ground that I had never seen a tent which looked like this strange collection of flaps and seams. That would be, I was told later by the tent’s owner who came over to sort things out, because I had put the tent up inside out.
Felix was given an Australia Zoo tent this year for his birthday. Needless to say, the groundsheet part is now a billowing addition to our shed, destined to resist all attempts to shrink it down to a manageable size and back into its holder.
It doesn’t stop with tents. Putting sleeping bags back in their too small containers is also a source of discomfort and failure for me. On so many Brownie camps I was the child who would wait to be collected with my sleeping bag exploding from my rucksack like a huge shiny tongue.
At the end of our inaugural beach session with Oliver in his tent, it was time then for the inevitable humiliation of being observed by other, more successful families as I tried to fit the now marquee-sized tent back into a holder clearly designed for a face cloth.
Of course it was never to be. The tent now sits in all its uncontained glory in the car boot, reminding me every time I see it that stuffing up stuffing things into other things is something I’m really, really good at.