I grew up camping with my family when a kid myself. To be honest, i don’t remember a lot of memories, but i do recall the campgrounds, my beach hair, the white lotion that covered my mosquito bites, and everything covered in sand. I do remember that i loved it, and i want to share this experience with my own family now. So this week, we went camping for our annual vacation. It was our longest time camping. As usual, it was a full trip filled with some highs and lows. The weather was mainly on our side, minus the epic storm that we woke up to at 2AM one night. Our sturdy tent lived through it and so did we.
One thing that i noticed was how i struggled with finding the right balance with how to be with my family, and have time to myself. I have learned over the years that going away with kids is not truly a vacation but rather a trip away from home. It’s work nonetheless. Doing it camping style is that much more so. Given that, i know i need to steal moments of time to myself in order to gather my thoughts, stretch, eat the last marshmallow (shhh, don’t tell them), and also to regroup in general.
So, this week i noticed a new shift that may re-define how we travel. My kids are getting older and for the most part, they can play by themselves. This self-sufficiency comes in handy when us adults are needing to set up the tent, build a fire, put away wet swim gear – you get it. This week, their play was amplified by the sheer presence of other kids. So many other kids their age. We have learned that it’s beneficial to us all to have a camp site by the playground, and it looks like other families have caught on to this as well. We shared our week at the camp and beach with at least 4 other families that we saw every day. The kids played with them at the playground, at our sites, and for the hours we spent at the beach. We joined forces in the water and shared water toys like a massive, awesome inflatable swan, and my beloved donut donut. We shared stories of parenthood. We commiserated about the work of being a parent. We took turns watching the whole gaggle of kids.
This is the epiphany i experienced: I at first felt guilty for being ‘that mom’ who lets her kids wander and bother other families: i worried that i would be judged and scrutinized for my lack of good parenting skills. I even worried that my daughter is too peer-attached and that it’s a sign that she is not securely attached to me. I felt bad for other parents who had my kids to tend with. And then i took my turn being the resident adult while they played. And you know what? I wasn’t needed at all. I was active in their play and not as a parent, but as a person. I got to float on my donut donut (it’s a donut painted like a chocolate donut) and still have an eye on the kids. Win win.
I realized that it only hurts me if i am afraid of the judgment of others. My kids were happy, and i was able to read a whole novel while camping and that was glorious. I got to work through my own version of feeling worried that i was not as good as another mom. Looking back, the parents all had a role to play and we did it our own way. I know i won’t see these families again and so i remained the best parent i could be for my kids. That’s what matters. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders when i realized this.
On the last day, we were all a bit sad to leave. Even though a storm was brewing, we lingered. I didn’t even learn the other moms’ names. I knew all 10 kids names though. One parent, when saying goodbye, reassured me that that boundaries don’t exist at campgrounds. I had thanked them for watching my kids and they reminded me that we literally are airing out our laundry for all to see, so why not also keep on eye out on our children too?
So, i left feeling like i was able to see both the benefit to attachment-based parenting as well as knowing that the village i cherish can also be rebuilt while away from home. It’s okay that my kids want to play with other kids. They also want to cuddle with me during a storm, play in the water together, and build our own memories.
We can be our worst critic sometimes, and fall prey to the comparison game. When we do that, it takes away from the joy of what counts most – our time with our family and being in the moment.