The two-hour drive on winding mountain roads is pleasant since my son loves to be quiet and read, so we never have to subject ourselves to a constant loop of “Are we there yet? Did you bring the Nintendo Switch charger? Can I charge the Switch in the woods? Why is this knife so sharp? Are we there yeeeeeeet? How much longer? Will there be mosquitos?” I whisper, “Good luck,” to the other families who are stopped along the side of the road so their kids can throw up from motion sickness. They must not know about ginger candy.
When we arrive at the campsite, my kid gets to work constructing elaborate pinecone bird feeders while I easily put up the tent. Having one kid who can entertain himself works just as well as people said it would. They are never bored. He always plays alone peacefully and never fights over toys or gets into a screaming match over who gets the biggest stick.
Even at such a young age, my kid has an instinctive appreciation for the great outdoors and nature. He is also never bored by nature. He doesn’t throw rocks at other kids, burns things or tries to feed a chipmunk his organic homemade snacks that I always find the time to make. Instead, he sits quietly in his camping chair, admiring the beautiful landscape and sings indie-inspired campfire songs and tells me how much he loves me and appreciates all the things I do for him.
At dinnertime, we eat the stew I cook over the campfire even though it’s unfamiliar to him and features ingredients touching each other. Or veggies. Getting him to be an adventurous eater was just as simple as all the parenting message boards said it would be, and now he will eat all the same food I do instead of asking why there are no waffles in the woods.
After dinner, the kids at the campground next to us are wrestling and trying to eat burnt marshmallows off the ground, while my kid sits and munches on his carefully prepared smores and doesn’t try to run over to dig a hole underneath the neighbour’s tent. Because my son listened intently to my safety talk about blades and flames, he diligently avoids the campfire and axe I brought instead of trying to recreate some school version of Zelda, Naruto, or Fortnite.
It rains a little, but that’s our chance to snuggle up together in the tent. I read a book while my kid quietly completes his Maths and English study booklets. I introduced him to books at a young age, and that’s all it really takes to raise precocious readers and writers.
Even though it’s light in the summer between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., my kid happily gets tucked into bed at 7:00 p.m. and drifts off to sleep so I can spend some time chilling by the fire. With all the sleep I have been getting for the past few years, of course, I want to stay up late.
That night we slept so deeply that we didn’t even wake up to the sound of the family in the campground next to us pleading with their kids to just go to sleep already and then packing up their campsite at three in the morning to head home early.
As the sun rises in the morning, the thin layer of nylon protecting us from the sunlight and noises in the neighbouring camps acts like a soundproof force field and lets my kid sleep in so late that we have to wake them up at 9:00 a.m. Young kids will sleep all day if you let them.
People at the neighbouring campsites smile and nod at us and our well-behaved children as they fry bacon and eggs on their camping stoves. I can tell they are happy to see a kid inhabiting the same public space they are in and that they think we are doing a good job as parents.
Packing up the campsite is a breeze because my son helps. I get to sit at the picnic table for thirty minutes to eat pancakes and slowly sip an entire cup of coffee out of the mug I definitely remembered to bring. I serenely smile as I watch my nine-year-old pack my sleeping bag into a sack with expertise I’ve never been able to manage.
When we get in the car to head home, well-rested and happy, I say, “We should definitely do that again.”