It’s Sunday afternoon. You finally settle into the car – hot, grimy and achy after two nights of mediocre sleep. You are desperately in need of a shower, as is everyone else in the car. You lean your head back against the head rest as you pull onto the freeway and a smile crosses your face. You aren’t thinking about the multiple skinned knees you bandaged, or the debates you had with your son about playing with the campfire, or the challenges of setting up and breaking down camp with toddlers. You’re thinking of all the magical moments in between.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that camping with toddlers is easy. Let’s be honest, nothing with toddlers is easy. But the most rewarding things are often the things that take some extra work and some extra sacrifice.
What your kids remember
I grew up in a camping family. In the Pacific Northwest, you’re kind of a novelty if you didn’t grow up camping. I would venture to guess that 4 out of 5 family trips were to the mountains to commune with nature from the “comfort” of a tent. We hit national parks, state parks, private campgrounds. We hiked, we swam, we boated, and, of course, we made s’mores! Those are my memories. I have very few of the “trials” of camping. I do remember Mom cooking under the shelter of our minivan tailgate while the rain poured down. I remember cuddling up with my sister because we underestimated how cold it would be. But even those memories have a rosy glow now that I’m an adult.
Unplugging in a digital world
Camping forces us to do what we always say we’ll do but never really get around to. It makes us unplug, slow down and reengage with each other. Chances are, most campsites you visit, aren’t going to have great data coverage. Don’t worry, if there’s an emergency, you’ll probably be able to call or text but, that trap you fall into of reading BuzzFeed Top 10 Lists while your kids play on the playground, won’t happen when camping. You might as well, get up and go play with them.
When camping, life quickly gets back to basics as eating, sleeping and using the bathroom become forefront in your mind yet again. Even routine tasks like cooking take on new meaning and bring more joy than they do at home. You’re problem solving, you’re being creative, you’re talking and laughing with others around you. Instead of multitasking a million different little things, you are fully engaged with the task at hand. Giving your brain a much needed break while also strengthening the part of your brain that you use to focus and stay on task.
You know when you head back to the gym after some time away, your body takes a while to get back in the groove? The same is true when you try to flex your unplugged muscles, it will take some time to figure out how to do that again but the result is so worth it. You’ll feel relief, you’ll feel connected. Yes, you’ll also feel grimier but it’s a small price to pay.
Camping is about being intentional. Intentional about how you live. Intentional about how you interact with your spouse. Intentional about how you interact with your kids.
Taking the “work” out of camping
The number one complaint I hear about camping is that it’s too much work. It is work, that’s true. But with some systems in place, it really isn’t that much more work than going on any family trip. I’m here to free you from that myth. To show you that the payoff far outweighs the effort and the effort really isn’t that bad anyway.
In this series, I’m going to be helping you embrace your inner camping enthusiast by taking the struggle out of camping. I’ll be writing about how to head up a multifamily camping trip, how to take the “work” out of camping, how to make camp cooking a breeze, and how to entertain those kiddos who are just as used to being plugged in as we are.
Even with these tips, it might not be flawless your first time out, or even your second time out. But stick with it and the memories will far outweigh the trials you faced in the moment. Let me know if you camped pre-kids – or if you’re camping now! I’d love to know what problems you faced while camping. I don’t have all the answers but I’ve got a wealth of friends who are old and wiser that I can hit up for advice!