Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Making Memories

As discussed previously HERE, once you become a parent, your life is no longer your own. And, even though this fact of life is widely accepted, it’s still sometimes hard to accept.  Parents try to hide it, run from it, or even gloss over it.  But, it’s still there, bubbling beneath the surface of our collective consciousness.  That is, until we take our kids on vacation. Then it’s front and center.  Like a slap in the face.  With a sledgehammer!

It used to be (in “once upon a time” time) that vacations were enjoyable and relaxing. A

tranquil time to get away from your troubles at home (or at work) and just recharge your batteries.  This is no longer the case.  Now, vacations are soul-sucking, brain-bending, heart-breaking feats of super-human strength that end up leaving you more tense and tired than when you began.  The reason for this sudden, but colossal, shift of fate?  Kids!

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my children. But there’s no denying that “vacations” are dead.  And my kids killed them!

Last year my wife and I thought it would be a great idea to buy a pop-up camper.  Why throw away money on beach houses (we reasoned) when we can invest in something our family can enjoy for years to come?  Both of us had fond memories of camping as kids and we very much wanted our own children to experience those great memories as well. Unfortunately, there was a very good reason why we enjoyed those vacations so much as kids...
...we were kids!  And somebody else did all the work!

Of course, no one bothered to tell us this!

Here are just a few of the highlights from Camping Trip #1: Three hours of “Are we there yet?” – as I make the same wrong turn three times.  One hour of “Can we play in the camper?” - as I’m trying to figure out how the blasted thing goes together.  Two hours of “I’m bored” – after one hour of doing everything the campground has to offer.  Two more hours of “I’m hungry” – as I’m trying to figure out how the blasted stove works.  Finally, one hour of trying to get the kids to eat the food they LOVE at home but “tastes funny” while camping.

After dinner, it only gets better.  Here’s our family’s typical schedule of evening events: 7pm – Campfire with marshmallow roasting and crying over sticky fingers,  8pm – Bedtime and the “Stop touching me!” game,  8:30pm – “Ahh!!! There’s a bug on me!!!”,  9pm – “I’m hungry”,  9:30pm – Sugar induced jumping jacks on the bed,  10:00-10:15 – Mommy/Daddy time,  2am - “I have to pee” and finally,  6am – Wide awake for the day.

Bottom line, camping is a shitload of work!

And I haven’t even mentioned the stress of: Noisy red-neck neighbors, a weekend-long rain
storm, potty-training a 1/4 mile from a bathroom, an unreasonable fear of sunscreen, soiled showering, wet clothes that will never EVER dry, mosquitoes of death, invisible roots, garbage–strewing raccoons, inquisitive hands vs. unclean toilets, buggy pools, leechy lakes, self-perpetuating clutter and crust/dirt on absolutely everything!

However, all it takes to erase those worldly troubles is one small smile at a newly-invented game of “bucket ball”, or a teeny eye gleam at a fear of heights that’s been vanquished on a campground climbing wall, or a mini-giggle when follow-the-leader turns into an “adventure in the wild”, or a kiss on the cheek when a trip wound is carefully cleaned and covered, or a heart-felt hug after a favorite bed-time story is read by Buzz Lightyear head-lamp.

And, before you know it, what ends up making these family camping trips worth while are the little things.  Things like: Improvised campfire stories, leaf collecting, feeding hot dog buns to chipmunks, making a home for a new pet caterpillar, and finding (and showing Daddy) a special rock that gets pocketed for safe keeping. 

Because, once you have kids, vacations are no longer reserved for relaxing.  They are memory making machines for your kids.  And, after all, isn’t that what they should be all about?

Ultimately, I consider myself to be a very fortunate parent of four.  Because, with the 14-year gap between sets of kids, I’ve been given a second chance. A chance to see my oldest two grow up and then do it all again “the right way” with the youngest two.  The p
roblem is, I'm so old that I’ve forgotten all the things I wish I'd done differently.  Now, I'm just hoping I can do as good a job parenting this time around as I did the time before.

And so, I guess the best advice I can give to all the other struggling parents out there is this:

“Don't worry about making mistakes with your kids. Instead, worry about making memories with them. Because, once they leave home, that's all you'll have.”

At least, until your memory finally packs up and leaves you too!


  1. "Bottom line, camping is a shitload of work!" - yup, that about sums it up! But for some reason we keep going. Guess we want to make sure she takes her kids out camping sometime later in life and comes to realize how much work we did to make sure she has fun in the outdoors ;-)

    Keep up the good work!