What did camping teach me?
You will often hear me harp on about how lucky we are to live where we do. I am nestled in a little village betwixt the sea and the rolling hills of the South Downs. I have always been a town or city dweller, however when the kids Mum and I split up, I decided that being closer to the kids school would make my life easier. So, I made a bold move away from town life and headed to the hills.
I actually make this sound rather dramatic. When in fact, it was only a move of about five miles.
However, this weekend was another reason I felt lucky to live where I do.
With little notice a very hastily planned weekend camping trip was organised between myself and two other families. We have all camped together before, the kids are all friends and it works well. Five parents and twelve kids aged between 2 and 16. It also happened to fall on the day that the eldest of the kids finished his last GCSE exam and would be school free until September. Plus it was Father’s Day weekend and where better to celebrate, than in a damp field with the kids. The main reason for the trip however was to test run a caravan that one set of parents had picked up the previous day.
We didn’t have to travel far on Friday, so following the afternoon school run we congregated at one of the houses and began our little convoy. Ten minutes later we had arrived.
I told you! The joys of living in the countryside. We have a plethora of campsites all within a quick drive. This particular one is set on a working dairy farm and consists of various fields with a selection of amenity blocks and a very well stocked shop. Surrounded by woodland there was plenty to explore. There was also a big fishing pond. All of this is wrapped around a really large and well arranged play area, full of climbing frames, swings, slides, wooden boat structures and adventure trails.
The other great thing about this particular spot is that a little fire pit is supplied, enabling us to roast marshmallows each evening over a real fire.
Upon arrival, the kids dispersed immediately, only returning when they were either hungry or thirsty. This gave us all time to get the tents, together with the other equipment ready and set up our little horseshoe shaped camp for the weekend. But more importantly light the fire, grab a beer and generally catch up with each other. We all see each other fairly regularly, either at the school, during the kids extra curricular activities or at the local park. But weekends like this, also give us some real time too.
As expected the weekend flew past. We had rain, sunshine and wind and mist. But nothing seemed to damper anyone’s spirits. We went for long group walks, we all played on the various rope swings we found in the woodlands. We flew kites, rambled about the lake and ate BBQ food all weekend.
For me, it was amazing to spend time with other adults. As I have written about before, being alone with the kids can become a bit lonely at times. So, some much needed adult conversations were had. But also it was lovely to see the kids getting dirty, making friends, playing in the rain. Generally having fun. Outside fun too. All the kids get on anyway, but seeing my eldest lad, happily playing and looking after one of the younger members of the group at the play park was amazing. Or, the part where to everyone’s amusement, I wandered down to where my daughter and two others were playing. As I turned to leave and on saying,
‘Have fun and be careful’
I slipped on some wet mud and landed on my bum in a giant muddy puddle!
Being so close to home. When it was time to leave, we didn’t need to rush around in the morning. More ambled ourselves about, slowey packing between the rain showers and making sure everyone had a full cooked breakfast. Before arriving home during the afternoon to prepare for the school run in the morning.
It was during the evening as the kids slept and I relaxed on the sofa, that it really dawned on me that the best bit about the weekend was the fact that the mobile phone reception wasn’t very good. This was great, because it got the kids away from their tablets and phones. It also got them playing outside. It got them being kids again. On a more personal level. This was great for me too. It got me off my phone, got me talking and more importantly, it got me playing with the kids too.
To my surprise another Dad blogger I follow had very similar thoughts this weekend too. On a rather ironic note. Before I started my writing my blog, I was one of those parents, who as soon as the kids are home from school, I plonked my phone in the kitchen and didn’t look at it again until the kids were tucked up in bed. Then I decided to start this blog. Somehow over the last year, my screen time went up. To start with only a small amount. But over the last few months I have noticed a dramatic rise in me looking and interacting with my phone, rather than with the kids. It seemed becoming a Dad blogger has in-fact turned me into a less active Dad.
This weekend has reminded me that I need to change new habits and return to old ones.
I’m still going to write my Dad blog stuff and you will still get my quick, easy and affordable recipes and you will still find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But and here is a big BUT. If you message me or tweet me and the kids are about. You won’t get a response until they are safely tucked up in bed, or at school. My time, is now their time again.
I think, as parents it is very easy to get drawn into our phones, chatting on Facebook, following and liking on Instagram and if you use Twitter, you will know how easy it is to get sucked in for hours. So, all the time we are telling our kids to get off their technology and get outside. But we are the ones that need to follow our own rules. Lead by example. Put down your phone and go have some fun instead! You never know. You may feel better for it too.