Ahhhh, now that summer is here, my annual fantasies of glorious family camping adventures are consuming me in a big way. Beauty sunsets while sipping red wine from a travel mug, feeling the warmth of granite on your back as you stretch out over a smooth rock after a dip, eating freshly caught fish cooked over the fire… These serene moments are what I live for in the summer. A way to fill the soul until it brims over.
In reality, with a two and a three year-old, ‘camping’ takes on a whole new meaning. As you may recall, this time last year, I was in the throws of desperation to successfully get the family to sleep under the stars when I made the realization that camping with kids is just, well, not the sunsets and leisurely moments that I had envisioned! Remember this post!?
Truth be told, I was mostly fantasizing about this:
When in reality, it was this:
Last summer, 10pm. everyone crying, including me. Camping adventure was later abandoned an hour later!
But, alas, I am stubborn! I wouldn’t let the crying disaster of last year’s attempt hold me back. So, when our Sioux Lookout Families’ annual camping weekend rolled around mid-June, I committed. We would try again, no matter how many tears were shed.
This time, however, Blake and Henry would be in Toronto for their annual Blue Jays adventure for Father’s Day. So, I packed the cooler full, stuffed the gear into the car, jammed the Chariot into the rocket-box and set off to Ojibway Park, just Alice and I.
The weather cooperated and we had a gorgeous weekend of sun and mostly clear skies. Alice was a trooper and despite the heat and the bugs, she barely fussed. She loved bombing around the campground on her strider bike, running in and out of the water at the beach and hamming it up around the fire with her friends.
When nighttime rolled around, routine went out the window. By the time the high sun allowed the darkness to fall, it was after 11pm and Alice’s cubby cheek didn’t hit her fleece until 11:30pm!
I awoke at 5am to the crows calling and to Alice’s face inches from mine. “Good morning!”, she exclaimed. I felt like my eyelids were stuck to my eyeballs, but truly, how could I be upset?!
A few hours later, after the kids had been fed, I was finally sipping my much needed, freshly brewed coffee from Alice’s snack container (where the heck did my mug get to?!). We lazily watched the kids rolling around getting dirty and having the time of their lives.
“Why do we even bother camping with our kids?”, I had mused to Stu, a fellow parent and friend. It was a colossal effort and a massive amount of work to coordinate, keep the kids from being eaten alive by bugs and from being fried by the sun.
My mind had wandered to my own childhood. Every summer, our parents had packed us three kids up into our red canoe and had gone on a backcountry paddling trip. Sometimes with other families, sometimes just us. Of course there were times when I remember being knee-deep in mud, sobbing on a portage, being ravaged by bugs, but the vast majority of my memories were of bliss.
Piling mud on a rock to create a slide into the water, fishing off the shore, playing Risk while stretched out on our sleeping mats, signing while ‘paddling’ (aka mostly dragging our hands/arms/paddles in the water) in the canoe, running naked in and out of the water with that indescribably fresh feeling tingling on our skin… the list goes on.
Never before had I truly considered how much of a massive undertaking those trips were for my parents. The food prep, the planning, the organization of gear, etc. As a parent now, I can now empathize that despite my rose-coloured memories of our days in the backcountry, those family trips were likely not easy with three kids!
So thank you Mom & Dad for all of the times you wanted to pull your hair out as we tramped with dirty feet into the tent, or took a pee in a patch of Poison Ivy, or demanded that our bellies needed twenty more pancakes.
As for me, memories of a childhood, rich with outdoor experiences is motivation enough to make the effort for our family this summer and for every single summer that stretches before us. Because for us adults, when the moment is seemingly ordinary, it could be the most extraordinary memory in the making!