Camping is a summer ritual for our family. Every year we tow our little tent trailer to various provincial and national parks. And every year camping shows us how much our boys have grown. How much they’ve learned and changed.
We had a glorious time camping in Kejimkujik National Park in August – full of the kinds of times that one hopes will become fond childhood memories later in life. Lazy mornings snug in sleeping bags, board games played on the picnic table, munching on s’mores by the campfire.
As the busyness of our daily lives fell away, I became aware of what they boys had learned over the past year and the lessons they were teaching me over the course of the summer.
Lesson #1: It really is a journey, not a destination!
Some of you will know that last summer Ryan said good-bye to training wheels for the first time. It was a big moment for him and for our family for so many reasons. So when spring arrived Mike and I were expecting bike rides galore. The training wheels were off. The milestone achieved. The learning complete. Ha!
There’s a big difference between riding a bike and going on bike rides. We quickly encountered a whole other level of learning that needed to take place around hills and speed and the myriad of other things that go into a successful bike ride.
It wasn’t always pretty – sometimes because Ryan fought getting on his bike and sometimes because I had to face my own need for ‘efficiency’ and ‘speed.’ Ryan was content to be riding and who cared when we arrived.
Lesson #2: Man, those kids can really surprise you
We arrived at Keji with what I considered ‘realistic expectations’ around bike riding. The park has great mountain bike trails, but I assumed we would hike those and keep our biking on the roads, which are easier to navigate.
Day One at the park: Ryan immediately gravitates to the mountain bike trails; we spend the better part of the next 10 days covering at least 6k of trail every day and on our favourite day we probably covered 20k.
Mike and I were floored. We were elated, overjoyed, thrilled! I will never forget the feeling of flying along a mountain bike path, watching Ryan peddling his bike alongside Lake Kejimkujik. Mike provided steady, quiet commentary behind Ryan on his first ride and I could tell it left him feeling confident and at home on the trail.
Lesson #3: They really do grow up – and we have to grow with them.
This was also the first year the boys went cycling solo around the campground. And even though I knew they were ready and okay, I still had that dread of the unexpected.
True confessions: we called park security the first time Ryan went out and Euan came back without him. Ryan showed up 20 minutes later – having decided to go mountain biking on his own! Mike and I were upset and excited at the same time: “Omigod, we couldn’t find him. Omigod he voluntarily went biking on his own!”
This newfound independence extended to some playground visits as well. The boys kept in touch with walkie talkies and finally mastered the ability to hold the button and talk at the same time. I can still picture Mike’s grin as he carried on a long conversation with both boys.
It’s easy to get caught up in the challenges facing our kids – the things we need to work on and help them master. But we have to be determined not to let those ‘to dos’ define us or our relationships with them.
So for me, this will not be the summer of shoelaces or stressful summer camps. It will be a summer where we all learned to stretch ourselves a little bit more, step out of our comfort zone, and experience the thrill of doing something for the first time. We’ve already started planning next year’s mountain biking and our first family foray into backcountry camping. Stay tuned for more tales from the trails…the path may get a bit bumpy along the way, but I think we’re ready for it.