I first posted this article last year around this time. And, I’ve received positive feedback on the story, so I’ve expanded it. I offer it here–as a reminder of what we’ve experienced, and a foretelling of the many experiences that are yet to come… Enjoy the read. Celebrate in the camping experience (no matter how terrible it may seem). And, cherish all the little moments.
So, I went camping this past Monday. That statement alone probably causes you to envision all sorts of things–both good and bad. And, there were a whole lot of moments that I would categorize as the latter… Perhaps, you’d first think about your own childhood experiences with your dad? Or the bear that got into the stored food? Or the hiking you did just last week with your kids? Or camping under the stars with your grandpa, while he told you stories? Whatever you (or I) might have imagined the camping trip to be… It didn’t turn out nearly as wonderful or as well-formed an idea as I’d hope.
Preparing for the Camping Trip…
Yes, you probably are wondering whether I was prepared. And, I have to counter with: “How can you really prepare for everything?” There are so many eventualities. So, I made a checklist of things we would need.
- Tent – check
- Camping stove – check
- Sleeping bags – check
- Food stuffs (including his favorite hot chocolate and marshmallows–that were were sure to turn into a gooey mess)
I could go on-and-on, and list everything on the list, and all the fun we were looking forward to experiencing–for our first father-son camping trip. All of those plans would have probably worked out great. In the end, all I really needed was an Ark.
Deluged Camping Trip…
It rained extremely hard over the 2-day period that we’d set aside for our camping trip. And, ultimately, I have to say: a water-logged son-and-dad combo do not make for great buddy-bonding moments. If it had just lasted a few hours, or even a day, I think we would have laughed–saying that it was part of the overall first-time-camping experience. Then, we’d have set up the camping tent for the final day, and we’d have sat around the fire and told stories, while we enjoyed roasting marshmallows and drying out the whole sodden environs. But, reality the way it was… We ended up spending a lot of time in the back of the Jeep. Although we attempted to set up our tent initially, it took a pretty good pounding with the mini-hurricane of wind and pounding rain (I think there may have even been some hailstones in there)–all in growling thunderous torrents. It was one of the worst, most prolonged storms I’d been caught in, at least in quite a long time. I kept expecting it to let up, and it would–for extremely short periods of time. To be fair, we were able to hike here-and-there, but not for long periods. Before we even got very far, the torrential downpour was back, as if punishing us for our attempts to venture out of the Jeep. And, really, it wasn’t just the prolonged BAD weather… It wasn’t just our inability to do any of the fun things we’d planned. It was everything combined, and so much more. I had such high hopes! This was my son’s first camping trip. I felt like a really suck-ey dad/anti-Bear-Grylls type. I KNEW that I could have done so much better… been the father-camp leader, the fun-outdoorsy dad that I’d hoped I could be. I wanted him to enjoy camping–like I did when I was a kid, with my old man. I still have fond memories of camping with him–with that poignant mix of smells–earthy, with all that smoke-and-crackle, fron those times around the campfire. I remember looking up at the wide-open-clear, but pitch-black skies, and watching the stars through the night (I never wanted to go to sleep, for fear I’d miss something). I also have great recollections of munching on s’mores, with that always-yummy-fun goodness. It seemed so easy for my dad–to seize the experience. With no effort, he could do all of these things, or so it seemed to a 10-year-old. And, here I am… I’ve wanted to be able to enjoy camping and the Great Outdoors, with my son (overcoming every obstacle with ease and forethought). But, on this weekend, Mother Nature was not going to allow me to have those golden moments that I’d played out so often in my head. Imagine, my son might have even seen me, carving out a canoe with my pocket knife. No… Instead, I was Noah without an Ark, Bear Grylls without the Bear, Survivorman without the Survivor part, or so I seem to muse.
I know… I couldn’t control the weather, nor could I blame an extremely bad weather report. The fact that there’s nobody that I can really blame does not hep though… I still feel I have let him down. I can only hope that–despite all that went wrong–he’ll look back on this as a fun time. Dare I even hope that maybe he’ll even want to go again, if not with me than maybe with someone much cooler–one of those guys who could make a super survival lean-to that blocks out the rain-wind-weather. Probably he’ll just need a MacGyver-dad. In the back of my still half-sodden brain, I have to imagine that my son would have enjoyed a camping trip with a MacGyver-dad. Imagine all the inventive discoveries and experiences. He would’ve had wi-fi, electricity, heat, a/c, a huge bed, and a cabin–all fashioned from bubble gum and wrappers. Instead, our reality was much more simplistic–lacking adventure and danger:
- We sat there munching on lots of goldfish crackers, while sitting in the midst of all our gear in the back of our Jeep.
- We even fogged up the windows, which became the canvas for lots of toddler scrawls.
- We had epic tickle fights.
- And, we were able to watch the same 2 recorded episodes of Dino Dan–more times than I’d like to think of.
Come to think of it, maybe–despite all the things that went wrong–he actually did have some fun. Maybe, there is still hope for this clueless-in-camping dad… Maybe, just maybe, he’ll want to do it again. And, of course, that might even mean that his first camping trip wasn’t the epic failure his dad thought it was. I guess, sometimes, we look at the bad so hard that we don’t see the smiles and happiness that are staring us in the face, right in front of us. I almost failed–not because of all the things we didn’t do–because we almost missed seeing all those invisibly marvelous moments we were able to enjoy. It’s something we all do… We don’t always notice that being in the moment is just as important as making the moments. “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Charles R. Swindoll