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Are we there yet? (or why the heck do people go camping with their kids)

I’ve been more of a scattered mom than usual lately. The kind that forgets doctor’s appointments and perpetually arrives late or unprepared for the kids’ extra-curricular activities? Yeah, er, that’s me.

This life with young children, and work, and household maintenance … it really does feel like a hamster wheel sometimes, doesn’t it? Everyone TALKS about how to achieve balance, but I’m pretty sceptical about it being even possible. So, for now, I just keep running. It’s not so bad once you accept that you are indeed a scattered mom and that this is just simply life.

For today though, I’m home from work because my little guy spiked a fever in the middle of the night and he’s out of sorts. And the sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a sick toddler through the night is hanging heavily on me, so forgive me for lacking any original thoughts or passionate topics to raise with you … but, I do have something I’d really like to share.

It’s something I read last night in the issue of Expore magazine that just arrived in the mail yesterday. It’s a special edition that features the best stories from the past 30 years and it’s just chock full of ultra-great writing. But seeing how many of us have been trying to undertake the “camping experience” with our kids, this particular piece really resonated.

Are We There Yet?
By Bruce Ramsay
Originally published in the July/August 2005 issue of Explore and reprinted for this special edition

The breathless cliche goes something like this: to take children into the woods is to experience the wonder of all that surrounds us. But the truth is that yarding half-pints into the woods offers a frustration-to-bliss ratio closer to golf, or more likely, the carnal act that got you into trouble in the first place. So why do I take my kids?

Partly because I want them to have an image of me that includes mountains and streams. Partly because kids — unlike adults, who have been brainwashed by the positive affirmation industry — understand that YES, it is the destination, NOT the journey dammit. Partly because kids, until they hit 10, will laugh at most of your jokes, humble you by making you carry their baby dolls and stuffies past other hikers, hug trees without political intentions, shamelessly tell fantastic tales that have no basis in reality, don’t care how much you spent on your boots, can be scared by the simplest of ghost stories, drool mercilessly on your hat during shoulder rides, pull on your ears from their backpack, and understand the spiritual importance of hot chocolate.

But ultimately, the best reason for taking kids was revealed to me a few years back while hiking up Ha Ling Peak with my then 18-month-old daughter. As we stopped for a snack, we were passed by a man being led up the mountain by his two teenagers. As he paused to say hello to my daughter, he said, “That’s how we started years ago, and the secret is that when you take them as youngsters, someday down the road they will ask you to join them.”

Which is maybe why I laugh loudest these days when my kids pester me with , “Are we there yet?”

Did you enjoy this? I loved it and I think, if I had to pick my fave twist of words, I’d say it was the part about hot chocolate being a spiritual experience! You?



  1. I like! YES! We will camp again this summer after a summer off (due to lack of reliable vehicle required for a kid still in diapers requiring more than ‘normal’ packing) and we are looking forward to it. It never ceases to amaze me that my kids love the outdoors so much that most of the toys I pack for them remain unpacked when out in the woods. Sure hope they will stay this way when older…

    It’s nice to read something new when so many blogs have come to a screetching halt. Thank you for posting something. I too was sleep deprived, but my house of sick is mostly done now so I am in catch-up mode (and equally scattered)…

  2. I can only imagine how hard it is to keep your sanity (and sleep) with kids. I don’t have any and work/chores etc. already take most of my time. Lookijng back, I don’t know how my mum did it!

    The story is cute!

  3. We took our kids camping because we wanted to go and we had kids. There was no other ulterior motive. It’s what we could afford.

  4. i will never, ever forget how uncomfortable breast feeding while sitting on the corner of an air-mattress was… in the pitch black, of course!

    and then there was the time my older son ate a few too many marshmallows before bedtime , walked in the tent and puked all over his sleeping brother and both air mattresses and all the sleeping bags! my husbands’s reaction “we’ll have to go home”. men. we spent the night under our beach blankets, after rinsing the mattresses in the lake, again, in the dark of night!

    memories like these are what makes life worth living! right?


  5. We have camped a few times with the kids, but it always seems like so much work. I like the idea of camping with them an awful lot, but in reality I much prefer to rent a cottage.

    BUT, I think kids get a lot out of it, and I think I should just suck it up and go again this summer. Thanks Julie, for the push.

  6. We love camping! With small children things get more complicated (read keeping away from campfires!) but also unlike the comment above I think that kids remind you that it isn’t about the destination, but the journey!


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