A Camping Epiphany

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that my family probably spends more time outdoors than indoors, but I have to admit something in the interest of full disclosure. We have a teenaged daughter who has betrayed us by turning into…well…a teenager. That means she begrudgingly goes along with our outdoors fun–even if she’s awoken and given the option to stay in her sleeping bag or come explore the cave with us, then groggily chooses the cave–and tries her hardest to pretend she’s “glamping.”

But we’ve been camping just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the past week, and an epiphany occurred. She picked up her phone and got a text message about a play she’s really wanted to see. She gave me the details and I had to cringe a little. I explained that with the cost of gas to get to the city where it was being performed, plus the cost of tickets, plus the fact that it would get out so late that we’d need to get a hotel room, it wasn’t very likely we could pull it off.

“What if we camped instead?” she asked hopefully.

And I laughed, and I laughed, and I laughed… until finally she was laughing because she knew that camping wasn’t so bad when it’s something SHE wants to do (like seeing a play or exploring a cave!), but it was just something to complain about when it was just a fun family activity.

And hence the epiphany: HER epiphany is that this kind of activity really does serve a purpose. It’s basically cheap vacation fun, if you already own the gear I suppose. HER other epiphany hasn’t happened yet, but when she’s older she’s going to remember the family hikes and camp outs and other fun activities that put us together in a remote place, but that didn’t have to break that bank. She’ll remember that someday when she’s a mom and the money’s tight (I remember a week-long trip to Disney World with my parents when I was twelve; if we hadn’t tent camped at Disney’s Fort Wilderness, there was absolutely no way my parents could have afforded to take us), and camping is the only way she can take her kids to something they really wanted to do.

But my epiphany at that moment was this: so what if camping isn’t her thing? It’s my thing, and in many ways it is our family’s thing. It’s not killing her to go and she’s not allowed to complain, and every once in a while she has a really great time doing it. I’m not only giving my kids a vacation or a fond memory, I’m equipping them for the future. No, it doesn’t have to be the zombie apocalypse or a dystopian survival situation. I’m teaching them to think of others and make the best of a situation, and I’m teaching them to problem-solve (when there’s a play you want to see and the tickets are expensive, sleep in the woods after it’s over!).

This lifestyle might not be her cup of tea right now, but it’s good for her on so many levels. Plus, I get to look her dead in the eye and confidently say those fateful words every parent wants to say: “Someday you’ll thank me for this!”

The cave more than made up for the camping, she told me so!

The cave more than made up for the camping, she told me so!

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