So. The first time I went camping, I decided we’d do it with 7 kids in tow. Ages: 13 to 6 months.
- To those of you who aren’t campers, that probably sounds CRAY-ZEE.
- To those of you who are adept at camping, you’re probably all googley-eyed and thrilled at the mere sound of it.
It seems that everyone in the PNW LOVES to camp. When we lived there, our church had an annual camping trip, and a surprisingly high amount of families participated.
Generally, people in Texas don’t go camping unless they grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I grew up in a VERY non-campy environment. So I had a lot to learn.
- I’d never camped as an adult, and only a few times as a child/teen.
- I had 7 kids with me.
- It was for 6 days, 5 nights.
- I felt like my area of deficiency/inability was going to be on display to a slew of successful campers.
Nonetheless, I didn’t bail, and we went. And I ended up (mostly) loving it. SO much so, that about a year later, we went on a 12-day backpacking through-hike around Mount Rainier. And now, nearly a decade later, even though we now live in Texas, we still love backpacking and camping and do so multiple times a year.
That first week of camping, I came to see a lot of similarities between camping life and normal life with a lot of little kids.
Here are 25 ways I think camping as a family is like life as a mom with a lot of kids:
(note: these are true about a relatively pleasant/temperate place to camp, like the PNW… but if you choose to camp in flat, hot Texas in the middle of July, it’ll be way way worse than normal camping, and way way worse than life as a mom of a lot of kids).
- It takes a lot of work.
- It’ll go tons better if you prepare carefully. You don’t have to be completely organized, but doing it well WILL require some purposeful planning. (I’m an ENTP on the Myers-Briggs thing… NOT a planner… but for camping and backpacking, I make a set of mega lists, and it always serves me well.)
- Being forward-thinking is an asset (anticipating potential problems in advance staves off headaches).
- The way the first time goes will likely affect how many later ones there are.
- No matter what, there are going to be messes.
- No matter what, there are going to be inconveniences.
- Sickness and injuries are likely. Plan accordingly.
- There are going to be sleep interruptions. Do what you can to facilitate sleep, but keep in mind: if you let sleep control your attitude, you’ll be miserable.
- The days can be as good, or as terrible, as you make them. The more you look for God’s grace and ways to be thankful, the more you will see. Conversely, the more you focus on the difficulty of it, the more difficult it will seem.
- Attitude is nine-tenths of the outcome.
- It’s better to have people you love around you who share your goals and are doing it with you.
- You’ll do better if you seek lots of advice on the front end, from people who do it well and do it joyfully.
- That said, it’s a good idea to adapt the advice you get to the person you are. (with camping: don’t choose a meal plan of meals you don’t like; with children: don’t try to homeschool by a rigid schedule if you are a spontaneous/relaxed person.)
- To get better at it, you’ve gotta push past the “I never did this and I don’t know how to do this” mentality. It IS more challenging for those who weren’t raised around it, but even if you’ve never done it, you can figure it out if you want to do it.
- Set expectations low in terms of what you’re going to “accomplish.”
- Making it your #1 priority to make your family successful can help everyone– including you– to flourish.
- Look for small moments to sneak in time for spiritual and personal delight, and those times will come.
- Attitude correction and relationship facilitation is a normal activity as a mom… in life, and in camping.
- Food will be less stressful if you choose simple, easy-to-prepare meals that everyone likes.
- There are lots of unplanned, unanticipated moments of fun. Or, put another way, you can’t schedule quality time. It’s in the quantity time that quality time happens.
- You’ll know the people you live near much more intimately: snoring, attitudes, burps— it’s all on display.
- The right amount of gear can make a difference. Too much, and you’ll be drowning in gear and forget to use it all. Too little, and you’ll be inconvenienced and frustrated.
- Focus a big part of your attention on making basic life essentials for those who are youngest (regular eating & naps) go well– and it will make life better for everyone else.
- No matter what, it’s harder when all your kids are little. It gets easier, the more big kids you have.
- Joy is found in just BEING there. Yes, it’s hard to be there. But you’d miss a lot if you weren’t there to see it all and be a part of it.
And the great news of this, for us, is… like having more children, we’re way more open to, into, and adept at, camping now than we were before that first trip.
Practice makes better.
Grace and Peace,