The summer is nearing an end and I’ve been thinking about that nature challenge we made this spring. In many ways I feel pleased with how much we did get out- bonfires and gardening and lake days and fort building- it was a summer with plenty of outside fun.
At the same time, there were a lot of projects keeping us indoors this summer- what began as a seemingly small task of moving the boys into their own rooms, turned into an epic endeavor that involved rearranging every room in our home to make us all fit a little better. That meant that a great deal of time was spend sorting and organizing and moving all our stuff around. And painting everything in sight. I’m pretty sure when we look back on this summer it will be remembered as the summer of paint.
What saved us this summer from feeling that we had been cooped up too much, was friends. Wonderful, encouraging, can-do friends, who got us out of our paint clothes and up into the mountains and on camping adventures.
And, aside from being very grateful for the wonderful people in our lives, I was also really struck by how much more manageable our little adventures were when shared with friends. The kids were utterly content and wholly preoccupied with the magic combination of open air, sticks, water and good playmates (read: we hardly saw them. and that was great.) There were other adults to share the tasks of meal making and dish washing and tarp construction and fire pit tending. And because the kids were so happy off doing their thing, we were left to do our own thing too. There was time for real adult conversation. I’m telling you- we actually finished sentences. It was amazing.
Here are a few reasons to take your friends into the woods with you
1. Share resources: I have to admit- we are probably the weakest link in any outdoor adventure. We don’t have good gear. We are not very hardcore. We don’t really know what we are doing. But somehow our friends are willing to have us tag along anyway and share their tips for what to bring and how to pack the sleeping bags small. I’d like to think we offer them something in return- willing dishwashers and friendly company?
2. Meals are easy: It really is as easy to cook a big pot of pasta on a cookstove as a small one, and sharing out the meal tasks just makes it so much more manageable and fun. On a recent 3 day camping trip with 3 families, we each took 1 or 2 meals to plan and prepare and then brought lots of easy lunch stuff to share. It was so much simpler than planning 6 or more meals for our own family.
3. Kid-care is so much easier with more adults around: Our ancestors knew this. Traditional peoples have always known this. And camping with other families is one of the few ways we can taste this in our modern culture. It’s worth experiencing.
4. Your kids will be nicer: Okay, no guarantees here, but generally, most kids are happier outside, right? On our hiking and camping adventures this summer, our kids were so thrilled to be playing outside with their friends that they were just awesome little humans. Hardly a complaint or an unpleasant word was heard. It’s true that they might have been a little tired and cranky afterwards, but while we were there, they were pretty blissed out.
5. Good influences rub off more in the woods: I have awesome friends. They are wonderful role models for my kids. And somehow, out there in the wilderness, I see my kids soaking up their influences in different way. My oldest son’s conversation with a dad-friend seems to be taken in more deeply when it is shared over the camp saw. Meaningful stories of friend’s experiences are listened to with wide eyes when told late at night around a campfire. It’s an untested theory that they learn more out there, but I am holding fast to it anyway.
So this summer, aside from painting 2 bedrooms, 5 stools, 1 floor, 3 dressers, a table, 2 desks and a shelf, I also got out in the woods. Let this summer be known as the summer of paint and of camping with friends.