Hi there, fellow Glampers!
First, a quick disclaimer: Laura and I struggled while writing this post. It’s a tough subject to discuss without sounding preachy, holier-than-thou, snobby… basically like a jerk. I feel very strongly about getting my girls outdoors, and I wanted to share some of the reasons why. Hopefully it goes without saying that our kids aren’t perfect, and Laura and I are certainly not perfect parents; we’re all definitely works in progress. That said, below are some things I just needed to get out there. If any of them resonate with you then feel free to take them with you. If you think they suck, then right on! Everyone walks their own path.
As the father of two little girls as well as an avid outdoors-nerd, I have some strong feelings about getting my girls comfortable with nature. A good portion of my childhood was spent outdoors. Whether I was poking things with sticks in my back yard, or learning bowlines and half-hitches amongst my fellow Boy Scouts, learning the outdoor arts shaped the values that I wanted to pass along to my children. With muddy knees and a sense of adventure, I learned about leadership, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and independence. Perhaps most of all, I developed a self-confidence that I never knew I had.
Understandably, I wanted my girls to get that same experience. Not just because they were girls… but frankly, the things I mentioned above read like a “Top Ten” list of things I would want any of my kids to have… but especially my daughters.
Then it hit me. After our oldest was born, I was dismayed when I finally realized… There just aren’t nearly as many organizations available for my daughters to explore nature. I know many will disagree, but that’s simply what I found. (All due respect to the Girl Scouts, but daytime-only summer camps? Really? Really?!)
Thus, as we continue our exploration of Glamper culture, I felt the need to describe some reasons why I, as the proud daddy of two little girls, want my girls to know their way in nature:
1) Straight-up survival skills.
Here’s the big one. Yes, I want my girls to know how to pick a campsite. Yes, I want them to know how to tie a timber-hitch. Yes, I want them to know which plants you can eat, and which will give you the poops. But more than any of that, I want them to know that they can survive in the wild. This is a remarkable confidence booster. If a kid knows they could live for a week eating roots and plants, then maybe that book report won’t be so bad. Maybe they can stand up to a bully. Maybe they can fix their own toy. Imagine if one could build that kind of confidence in a little girl. Imagine the possibilities!
Also, it’s nice to have some extra badasses along with me during the zombie apocalypse.
2) It’s a family event that defines who we are as individuals and as a team
As a military family, the time we can spend together is precious. Any family event is incredibly important, but camping and exploring nature takes it to another level. We’re often in the middle of nowhere… No screens (not as many, anyways). No phone calls. No soccer practices. No work. Just us. It forces everyone to communicate, work together, and explore as a team. These are the memories my girls will remember, and frankly, the ones I want them to remember. They won’t remember that episode of Curious George they watched, but they’ll definitely remember “the time that dad fell on the cactus.” (Spines were sticking out of my butt and everything. Classic!) These are the memories that will serve as the groundwork for their personalities and relationships.
3) Teaching them it’s okay to get dirty
I do think that it’s important for them to literally get dirty, and getting outside is the perfect place to teach this lesson. However, in a more metaphorical sense, it teaches them a more significant message. In short, “Mistakes are okay.” Things get dirty. Wash them off and keep going. It doesn’t matter if you keep falling down… what’s important is that you keep getting back up. Getting this kind of resilience started early can only be a good thing.
4) Children are copycats… give them something to copy
We all know it… your child will do what you do (especially with a same gender parent). When Laura and I first started dating, I knew she was the woman I would want my daughters to emulate. I can teach my girls to make a campfire, sure. But watching their mom build the campfire, too… that speaks volumes. It sends a message about equality, self-confidence, and independence in a way that even the littlest of kids can understand. If dad can do it, well then of course mom can do it. Also, I want my girls to raid Laura’s hiking gear just like they raid her jewelry box.
5) Solving puzzles without the picture
So many experiences out of doors involve problem solving… How are we going to cross the stream? How will we eat this wriggling fish? How do we get the cactus spines out of dad’s butt? Mastering simple things in camp can translate to handling complex things in the “real world.” In a non-threatening world of camping, kids can take part in solving problems and being leaders. I’m not saying my kid’s going to discover cold fusion, but it’s a good start!
I’m sure there are plenty more ideas out there… If any of you Glampers-with-Kids have some additional words, we’d love to hear it! What has camping done for your kids (daughters or sons alike)? Please share in the comments below.
Regardless, whatever your motivation, keep getting those girls out in the dirt. I think it’ll be worth it. Whether they grow up to be a trail guide, or a kick-ass post-apocalyptic survival buddy, everybody wins. Happy Glamping!