We took our first family camping trip this weekend. We’ve camped before with P, but not with M. I ambitiously packed swimsuits and shorts, thinking that in the dry desert of the Okanagan it would be hot by May 2-4, but we all ended up spending the whole weekend in long sleeves and pants. It was pretty cold. But we still had a great time and while I was there I kept thinking up bullet points (yes, sometimes I think in bullet points) about why we should do this again and again.
First, camping is democratic. I mean, as vacations go, it’s pretty cheap. Sure there are those who get the expensive RVs and fancy equipment, but all you really need is a tent. So almost anyone can do it – there was a group of university aged guys, lots of families, single folks with dogs. You really meet all kinds of people when you’re camping.
Second, it’s unplugged. Our kids are going to grow up in such a technological world. They won’t know a world without Google, or cell phones, or the immediacy of a text message. That technology can be very distracting at times. And it takes up so much time. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from it all for a few days. Oh okay, I admit, I brought my (new) Kindle. But we were out of cell phone range so it was still sort of unplugged. But there was no pausing to check Facebook, or read blogs. Not that I apologise for those things – but getting away from them makes you realise how much of a time suck they are. I have a new resolution: I’m going to try not to be on Facebook when the kids are awake.
Slow parenting – I mean, it really doesn’t get any slower than camping. I spent the whole weekend without a distraction from them (aside from the occasional ebook.) We talked, cooked together, read, coloured, drew and played. It was three days of quality time. Now I won’t say it was all idyllic, as there were meals to cook (J did them ALL) and babies to get to sleep, or soothe. But it didn’t really matter if it took half an hour to get M down for her nap because hey, we had nothing else to do. And as I stress about whether to register P in swimming lessons again (where he rebels), or if he should take piano, it reminded me. At the end of the day, the most important thing is just spending time together. At age 3 it’s more important than a tap class or a swimming lesson.
Community – I moved around a lot, but I spent much of my childhood in a small village. There were lots of kids, and we all just played at each other’s houses. We went out all day and only had to come back when the street lights came on. Other parents disciplined us as needed, or just kept an eye on us. We don’t have that where we live now, in a city where I only know a few of my neighbours. Maybe we will more when the kids get older. But I got a sneak preview of what that would be like. There were four families all camping pretty close together and P was immediately drawn to them. The minute we saw the kids he said “Hi, my name is P! My name is P! My name is P!” Finally the kids showed some interest in him too and they all just played for three days straight, breaking only for meals and sleep. He’d be over at another camp, or they’d be over with us, digging with trucks, or making beads or riding their bikes up and down the road between the sites. P kept talking about his “friends.” It was wonderful to see that bit of independence in him, and he really enjoyed it too.