I am Not Camping. Well, technically speaking, the rest of my family are Not Camping too. This needs explaining, I realise...
The Beautiful Girl and I have only ever spent one night apart and that was six years ago, when she was two. My Best Friend was celebrating her upcoming wedding in the traditional way by gathering her closest friends around her in a lovely hotel with a spa to enjoy massages, swims, saunas and facials before cocktails, dinner, wine, more wine, ribald conversation and the sort of humiliating "games" which pass for fun on these occasions. I couldn't not go. I didn't want to not go. And so I went. Beautiful Girl was still nursing every night at this point but the Lovely Husband was adamant - all would be fine. I returned home the next day, with aching breasts to cuddle up with a tired and emotional toddler who had whimpered for Mummy all night long.
Fast forward six years. Beautiful Girl is excited to hear that her cubs troop are going camping and decides she wants to go. Hmm... this is the girl that won't even stop at Nanny's house, or with her beloved cousins overnight without Mummy and Daddy. I didn't want to stop her if she thought she was ready, nor did I want her to miss out on what would undoubtedly be a lot of fun. But camping? Where it gets very dark, very cold, where you can hear all sorts of strange sounds around you? On her own? (She is the only girl in her troop and wouldn't be allowed to sleep with the boys.) I did what any mother would do. I made her Daddy go too. OK, so she wouldn't be with me for two nights, but I thought she'd be fine with the Lovely Husband.
Friday evening, I kiss them both goodbye and try to deny the enormous lump in my throat. I keep it together until the car turns the corner and then the tears start to flow. I come back into the quiet house and look around me. I haven't spent a night alone in nine years (I even shared a room with Best Friend on her hen night) and now I am faced with the prospect of two. I vascillate between giddy joy at the freedom stretching before me and despair at the thought of not seeing the loves of my life until Sunday. I can't stop thinking about The Fall and jump at the slightest noise. I decide to do what I always do in situations of crisis - run a bath and fetch my book. By ten thirty I am in bed and jump when the phone rings. I'm surprised to hear Beautiful Girl's voice on the other end - surely she should be in her sleeping bag by now? There is a quaver in her voice which quickly turns into a sob as she talks to me. I try and reassure her - she will be fine, Daddy is there - while trying hard to hide the wobble in my own voice. We hang up. Half an hour later and I am almost ready for sleep when the phone rings again. Her voice: "Mummy, we're coming home...". By midnight she is in my arms and I am calming her into sleep.
Saturday morning they leave by eight and don't return home until ten thirty at night. The Lovely Husband proclaims camp as being chaotic, poorly organised and full of children running absolutely wild. Beautiful Girl pronounces camp is AWESOME and her day as being THE BEST DAY, EVER. This morning they left at seven thirty, the Lovely Husband driving the twenty-odd miles there and back again without complaint each time. He is patient and encouraging, even when faced with a sobbing eight year old at eleven o'clock at night. What a father. What a man. He hasn't even mentioned the fact that he has had to forgo his traditional Father's Day lie-in and bacon sandwich. I am making him a special dinner tonight, full of his favourite dishes - pulled pork rolls, with crispy crackling, homemade lemony coleslaw and corn-on-the-cob baked with lots of butter, black pepper and dried chilli flakes. And for afters, a key lime pie. I'll even use the fancy coffee maker instead of the cafetiere, despite the fact that it is a faff to clean. He deserves it, my wonderful, wonderful Lovely Husband.