Growing up, camping was one of the great joys of my life. As a Dad, I couldn’t wait to show my children just how great it could be. My lovely wife, a true city girl, was the most reluctant of the bunch which just made me all the more resolute to convert them all. We went to beautiful Mesa Verde for four days. I won’t go about the beauty or the details of the experiences we had here. Instead, I share with you the parenting (and marriage) lessons I learned along the way that apply to life back home.
Leadership & Communication
Every group (family) needs clear leadership. Without a voice to manage, coordinate and make decisions, chaos ensues. Establish, in advance, WHO the leader is. And if you are the leader, realize you have taken on a great and difficult task. Being an effective leader does NOT mean you are a dictator, nor can you go unchecked. Leaders must communicate their decisions and willingly explain them if questioned. If not, children lose faith in adult leaders who appear arbitrary and unreasonable.
As adults, it’s vital to show children how to cooperate and problem-solve by joining forces. A strong leader seeks help and input from everyone on the team – adults and children alike. If adults in charge don’t work hard to “stay on the same page”, the results can be disastrous.
Organization & Simplification
Plan ahead and organize everything you can. The more “known” factors you have planned out, the better you are able to manage the “unknown” surprises that inevitably develop!
I came to these realizations through a crooked path of temper tantrums, confusing moments and, yes, fun. As a family bonding experience, the idealistic wilderness adventure I envisioned for years was only partially successful. The experience taught me much about myself, my children and our family dynamics. Not all of it was pretty. I’ll take the lessons learned and apply them to everyday life as a parent and partner.
Usually, Thomas and I parent equally, deferring to each other over certain areas of expertise. Camping is certainly his area of expertise. Although I was secretly dreading the trip, I wanted to set an open-minded example for the kids, some of whom have non-camping-leanings like me. So we trudged through. There were tears, wounds (physical and emotional), amazing experiences, arguments but also lots of laughs, plus Mesa Verde is so cool. I was happy to relinquish my half of the parenting power to Thomas to let him give our family an experience that was so important to him. It was all worth it – mostly.