This is a guest post (and photo) from Michael Denmon. Michael is a Dad who is working on being a better man, one project at a time. Catch up with his latest attempts at Dad Level Viking.
Today’s version of life has no lack of challenges when it comes to raising good kids. The lure of the digital world that has supplanted the call of the great outdoors life has become more destructive with every new app released and is quite possibly the biggest hurdle we face as parents.
Is our disconnect with nature in an increasingly coddled world a reason to fear for our future generations? Could camping be an antidote to the sort of disenchantment with life that many younger people seem to have?
I never got to go camping as a kid. I was outdoorsy, and I hunted and fished with my dad, but we never really camped. Those times in the outdoors are cherished memories though, and as I have romanticized the idea of camping out in the wilds of nature, I have grown more confident that I want to make the outdoors a critical part of my son’s life experience.
The opportunity for our first camping trip came over my son’s spring break in March. His preschool was nice enough to bookend the usual week off with weekends and an extra few holidays, so I saw it as a prime opportunity to visit my friend in Utah who operates an outpost for other campers and hikers drawn to the the region. This would be a brand new experience for us, so it felt good to have someone I could lean on for expertise should I need it. Still, I knew that what we were attempting could prove to be fodder for a classic anti-camping campaign.
The distance of our trip was one of the issues we faced because young children are not exactly known for their patience on long road trips. After all, we were looking at more than two days of almost all-day driving just to get to our camp spot and then the same amount of time to return home. Would this break our spirits before the camping even started?
Secondly, my lack of experience made me wonder if I was underprepared, or if perhaps I was overpreparing out of an abundance of caution. So many questions and so many potential errors lead to overthinking quite regularly, which typically just muddies the waters of any excursion. Should we wait until we were better prepared?
Finally, we were traveling into a region at a higher altitude and latitude than where we lived, which meant inclement weather was a real possibility. Weather that we may not be accustomed to or experienced in dealing with. Were we prepared? Could we manage?
The thing to remember when going on a family camping trip is that kids will always surprise you, whether it is in how little they react to some form of stimuli, or in how much they overreact to some form of stimuli. So, the most important part of being a good Camp Dad is being in control of your own emotions. If you blow up, you are going to dampen the spirits of everyone involved for the rest of the trip. Treat this adventure as the opportunity that it is, and realize that nothing will go perfectly. And if it did, the trip wouldn’t be an adventure anyway.
For the challenge of travel, we didn’t put deadlines on our trip. We knew when we were leaving, when we had to be home, and how many days we hoped to spend camping. Those were the only time parameters we had. This immediately removed the stress of keeping up with a schedule, and my son handled it like a champ. To add in some moments of excitement I picked out points along the way that I knew we would both enjoy. Aliens in Roswell, New Mexico, was one of those points and my son left that town with a smile and some alien swag, let me tell you.
Our lack of experience with camping was an initial concern, but once we adopted the mindset of learning as the goal, and not being proficient in all things, the expedition was full of mini-adventures. From the first breakfast cooked over an open fire to the first night in a tent that apparently leaked when raining, our camping trip became about earning badges of honor and skills achieved.
The weather did end up being our biggest challenge. We went from driving in dry conditions on flat ground to being in the mountains with ice and snow set in. Add to that the aforementioned rain which found its way into our tent on the first night, we were pretty cold and miserable. In fact, at 5:00 AM, we ended up escaping to the warmth of our pick-up truck’s heater. We ended up no worse for wear, though, and my son never complained the first bit. Unlimited quantities of rich hot chocolate may have helped keep his mood jovial, but I praised him for being such a trooper and he never missed a beat. Luckily, our hosts had some gear that they loaned to us which made for a much more comfy stay for our remaining time at the campsite.
Our first father-and-son camping trip was a success. In the end, we enjoyed a trip of a lifetime and I was so pleasantly surprised by my young son’s grit and character, leaving me supremely proud of him. We learned about camping, and I learned that my son is much tougher than I previously would have given him credit for. And we can’t wait to go again.
So if you are a Dad on the fence about taking your children on their first camping trip, just do it. You will be surprised by what you find out.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and appreciate the inspiration given for other dads and families to follow! I am very excited to go on my own camping trip now!!
Thank you very much for the feedback! I hope to write about many more adventures with my Baby Viking, and I hope others will take their own families on adventures as well. Stay tuned to this blog for more of my adventures.
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