This last weekend I went camping up to Mirror Lake (photo album here) with some friends. Stephen is on the home stretch (defends dissertation on August 29th) so we left him home and I took an additional kid with me.
Camping is lovely, wonderful, and a revelation to me in my adult life since I never really experienced it as a kid. More on why I love it later. But camping alone with children is more difficult, mainly because I have failed to teach my children how to work hard.
When we arrived, the kids did not just naturally help me--while they were helpful in setting up the tent and getting sleeping bags, it ended there.
I was paralyzed by inability to get my children to do very much work and as a result, I felt like I was just walking around in circles doing a lot of nothing. The dinner that we had, shish kebobs, were undercooked because I couldn't get the fire to stay alive and I didn't really pack any oil/fat that would survive at high temperatures. Fortunately, it got dark rather quickly and we were forced to end that part of the evening.
That night we played some games and the next day while waiting for our friends we played more games. That part was truly enjoyable--and made me feel so grateful for camping and breaking away from technology, the bane and blessing of this modern existence. The kids connected with one another, we had great conversation, we sang endlessly (while playing Encore) and enjoyed our great and spacious tent.
Great and Spacious Tent:
When our friends arrived, we had a lovely evening together, though it further reinforced a few issues:
1) My kids were more motivated by eating sugary foods than doing any activities. Watching my children sit in their chair and try to order siblings/other children around was hard to stomach. Did they learn this from me? Do I sit around and order them to bring me things?
2) Meg wanted to change into warmer clothes so I sent her to our camp around dusk too look for it while my friend looked at me and said "you are not going to send your daughter in the dark to be abducted and have some stranger steal her into their tent." I realized, as she was saying that, how little I think of dangers for my children. I don't worry about things like that for my 5-year old and what is wrong with me that I don't?
3) I walked down to the camp with Meg only to discover that I had failed to check her bag and she only packed sun dresses. With spaghetti straps. No long sleeves, no socks. We had a sweatshirt and capris, and that was it. That was it!! What kind of parent lets a 5-year old go camping up in the mountains without warm clothes???
4) The next morning, I asked my 10-year old to open a package of bacon with a rather large knife. She came back a few minutes and said she couldn't open it. Our friend's son volunteered, and I handed over the recently sharpened knife to the kid (9 year old). He slipped while opening the package and sliced his hand to the point that both of his parents needed to leave the camp to take him to the emergency room. Stitches :(
5) In the middle of the chaos, my children started to bicker with each other. They were so rude to one another and critical of each other that the other children even started noting it "you are even worse than we are." I tried to get them to stop and finally sent my son to the car to sit by himself. He came back after 45 minutes in a much better mood--but why do they have to fight so much to begin with? How does one teach children to get along well. Isn't that the point of taking them on family trips? To see each other outside of the regular home life and develop relationships with one another? Another fail.
There were other issues, other good times--but the sum total for me was to realize how disorganized I am and how little I think of these little parenting things. Is this because I have worked always? Is it impossible for a person to be both an excellent worker dedicated to a profession but a master parent?
My house is messy, my children don't really know how to work--will they ever? I can't say that I had any sense of success in my parenting this weekend and it made me wonder if it is too late for me to fix these things.