Summer is basically here, which means that my kids and I have begun jotting down our bucket list of things we hope to do before the fall school year starts back up. We’ve got water pistol fights, swimming in a lake, fishing, and, of course, camping in a tent. Let me just say right now that I have less than no desire to sleep in a tent with my family.
I’m not a cold-hearted woman, I swear, but if you’ve met my three wild children then you would know right away that “sleep” in a “tent” is basically code for “staying up all night howling at the moon and waking up with s’mores sticky all over the damn place.” And I’m not having any of it.
The kids can have their own tent. I’ll sleep under the stars, thank you very much.
For years, I thought that being the good mum, the ultra-cool mum, meant that I had to bend to children’s wishes when it comes to making memories like camping or going to the beach. I’d have been the pack mule, the cook, the chauffeur, the planner, and the rule enforcer. I’d also have to give up any inkling of comfort in order to support the comfort and – more importantly – the fun that my children were supposed to be having.
The swirling loudness and cacophony of demands from my kids make wanting to plan a camping trip, even one in the backyard, feel like an anxiety-ridden nightmare. But my kids want to do things like sleep in a tent, they also want to go on a road trip, spend time at the beach, and romp through the woods.
Of course, we do those things, but it’s taken me a long time to realise that I am allowed to draw a line at my own comfort zone and make some small demands of my own.
If I am being honest, I am willing to bet that if anyone asked my kids, they would say that mum sleeping in the backyard camping tent is a huge buzzkill for everyone. They don’t want me there just as much as I don’t particularly want to be there.
With me in that tent, there are a bazillion redirections to “stop poking your brother” and “go wash your face” and “no, you can’t pee right outside the tent”. But with dad there, it is an endless smooth ride of laughter, staying up late, and making those precious summer memories that my kids totally deserve to have.
In the mornings when the kids do wake up with melted marshmallow stuck in their hair, it becomes dad’s job to clean it up. I get to wake up and make breakfast form the comfort of my quiet kitchen where my kids aren’t running around me in circles because they are already outside running around dad instead.
So, this year, when the kids gleefully asked me to put “sleep in in a tent in the backyard” on our summer family bucket list,” we all knew that this really meant the kids plus dad in a crazy fun overnight adventure outside.
Summer doesn’t have to be a dreadful time of trying to come up with activities to appease the intense energy of kids all while I run myself ragged and pray for school to hurry up and come to save me. I’m allowed to say no and find alternative ways to keep my kids having fun that doesn’t include me.
When they are old enough, I will definitely be shipping them off to summer camp. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to enjoying an evening of solitude in my own house while dad wrangles the kids out in the backyard.
Let’s just hope he doesn’t run out of stories or batteries for the flashlights.
photo via Getty