Of all the things to love about summer, perhaps my favorite is that it’s family camping season. Sticky s’mores fingers, smoky campfire hair, endless games of Uno, rainstorms that force us to read our books and nap all afternoon … I pretty much love it all.
Camping isn’t for everyone, I know. Packing and unpacking can be a whole bunch of work, everyone and everything tends to get pretty dirty, and then there is the whole sore back thing, unless you’re sleeping in the fanciest of campers. These just aren’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm.
When we’re camping, we’re really together. There’s something about being out in the mountains, or the desert, or the woods that makes it easy to enjoy each other. The distractions of home don’t exist – there’s no TV, no sports practice, no yard work, no trips to the mall.
Instead, we wake up to no alarm clock other than the chirping birds and hang out by the fire until the sun warms the day. Then we make a big breakfast before we head out on a hike or a bike ride, with a picnic lunch planned along the way. When we get back, we might read in the hammocks or play a game, then it’s time for dinner and another campfire.
Simple pleasures of the best sort.
No one ever gets bored when we’re camping. Kids roll out in the morning and find themselves in the midst of one of the best playgrounds ever. Sticks, dirt, rocks and water can keep them entertained for the entire day. Throw in a roll of duct tape and they’re really set – one weekend, the kids in our group ruled their forest kingdom with crowns, staffs and armor that they constructed of duct tape, sticks, pine needles and leaves.
This is the kind of unstructured time I long for but can’t seem to make happen enough when we’re at home. It might appear for an hour or two, maybe even a whole afternoon, but the real world intrudes too regularly. When we’re camping, it seems like we laugh more. We have better conversations. Our dog even seems better behaved. Life is just good.
Summer is short this year, with the change in the school schedule. But we got the calendar out the other night and wrote “camping” on a few more weekends both before and after the start of school. For all the things camping brings us as a family, those weekends are way too important to miss.
Sarah Johnson is a mother and coordinator of The Parenting Place. She is also a member of the Healthy Mesa County parenting action team.