Since aliens come and snatch our children's brains at the approximate age of thirteen, we needed to develop events to help our kids make it from childhood to adulthood. So, while we wait for their brains to grow back…
I take my children on a journey at the age of 13; to make for them a special memory, a time with Dad that is just theirs. We take the time to have adventures and talk. Talk about all the things that help them in the next few years, manage the temptations and pains of transition.
My first child, Chris, choose for his adventure, camping. We tossed a bunch of gear and food in the car then just drove up toward the high places of North Carolina. Talk was endless as the subjects of drugs, peer pressure, career choices, and girls (our personal favorite) went on and on. With Chris knowing this time was all his and that the purpose of the time was to talk, he did. With tons of questions and honesty flowing like a river in both directions, we laughed, blushed, and I almost cried a few times. I don't remember the drive, but we both remember the conversation.
In my mind, we just needed to; find a good spot, setup the tent, and let the fun begin! We drove and turned and drove and turned and, well you get the picture. There didn't seem to be any public land around where we could setup camp and it was already getting past noon.
I finally said, "Let's just pick a place, we're hungry".
I could tell Chris' confidence in my great camping skills were already shaken. We hiked into the woods, over a stream, where I almost fell in a few times. As soon as we made it over the banks, I was attacked. It was horrible, the residents of the property thought I was food and about 100 red ants jumped onto my feet and started trying to take the giant down.
Lesson #1; never walk in the woods bare-footed wearing just sandals. My son thought this lesson was funny as his, more than slightly chubby dad, showed him how Indians danced on the land before the white man arrived. Then the thought entered my mind for the "first" time, "Why did we choose camping?"
Now I'm hot, sweaty, and hungry, and with the walk that was coming, I'm about to be exhausted. We walked for only ˝ mile, but we still gotta go back and get all the other stuff.
"Hey Chris, I have an idea, why don't we walk back and camp closer to the car, it'll be easier to get to our stuff."
Walking back wore me out. So, right as we came into view of the stream and barley able to see the car, I said, "I'll set up the tent here and you go get the food from the car". I think I meant to say, "Sitting on the tent till you get back with the food", since that's basically all I had strength to do. Lesson #3: (or is it lesson #5 by now?); don't do adventures like you were a kid when you are a chubby old guy.
I hear, "Splash!" And again, "Splash!" then, a few grunts. What was possibly a waterfront attack from wild hogs was actually my son falling in the water and dropping all our food in the stream. The subsequent splashes and grunts were his attempts to save the food from the rushing stream and falling over and over again in the water.
As my soaked and bruised son came over the banks with the look on his face, "Why did we choose camping?" He said, "Well, I saved most of it." We were not laughing.
"OK, fine, let's set up and eat." I setup the fire and tried to open the food when we discovered those ants again and the smoke from the fire was swirling around. Fighting off hunger, ants, and choking on smoke--we were done.
I suggested, "How about we go to a drive-thru and find a local hotel. We can order pizza late, watch movies, and have the whole day tomorrow to talk and go sight-seeing".
"Man Dad, that s a great plan" and that's what we did.
We laughed later and learned more lessons than we could count. We will never forget it, but that was the whole idea. My other kids didn't choose camping.
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