You know, it occurred to me over the course of the last week, as Jen and I packed the car and left for a week of camping with two little kids, that it was a bit of a lunatic move. We were going pretty far North (Canada has lots of North to choose from, but we picked Lake Superior) and the kids are pretty little (four and almost nine), and the weather can be crazy, and we would be so far away for so long… there were a lot of ways that it could have gone wrong. Unbelievably, everything went right, or when it went wrong, Jen and I reached down into our parenting experience and figured it out. Sure, a week long camping trip into the wilds with little kids is ambitious, but they’re Canadian kids, well acquainted with the woods and the wilds and the women going with them were (or at least we like to think of ourselves this way) strong campers, with great skills. (I mean that. You should see either one of us light a fire.) I can cook anywhere, neither one of us minds being dirty, we’ve got good gear… the wild cards were going to be the kids. Before we left, I imagined that sort of episode where someone’s socks fit funny and that ends in an episode of helpless sobbing, or the fruit gets cut wrong – you know the one, that thing where a kid asks for sliced peaches, receives sliced peaches and then loses their mind because you should have understood that sliced is code for “don’t slice it” and there’s no going back.
Grownups can eat peaches both ways, but kids? I imagined fits in the car, breakdowns in the tent, dirt that couldn’t be managed, pillows that smelled funny and couldn’t be slept on… and Jen and I with only our camping gear to mitigate it all with. While a few of those things happened (I admit it, I am the MORON who cut a pancake into pieces that were way to small to be tolerated.) The week was perfect, and a big part of it was planning. There were activities for the kids every day, and I brought a sketchbook to be our journal, and every time things threatened to get wild, another magic thing surfaced out of Auntie Stephie’s Super Secret Fun Bag. We had scavenger hunts, and drew pictures, and painted…
We collected rocks, and found the best ones on every beach. We looked for the best swimming spots (holy crap Lake Superior is cold) and made giant bubbles. We hiked, and tested the muddy places in the road to see if we could get through, and we made sunprints, and cooked things on sticks, and talked about the safest way to light a fire.
We read stories (all of Little House in the Big Woods in a week) and put flowers and leaves in the journal to press, and the one day it rained like there was no tomorrow, Jen and I remembered that we had good sense, a car and credit cards, and got those kids to a hotel to dry off.
We saw a beach that was all rocks, big as your head and shaped like dinosaur eggs (Montreal River) and another one where the rocks were round and amazing (Gargantua Bay.) We swam in Old Woman Bay, we walked the sand bridge to Bathtub Island.
We talked about peeing outside (totally permissible, under specific circumstances) and ate raspberries off the bushes. We went to Flowerpot Island, and rode a fast boat, and Jen and I tried to stay up by the fire at night, but we were terrible at it.
We made a whole week of magic for those kids, and they were awesome.
The lunatic part turned out to be that Jen and I both brought our laptops so we could work remotely, and so much knitting that we could have set up a yarn shop in the woods. In the span of a week, I knit a single sock. That’s it. It turns out that the only thing I had time to make was a pretty great week for two little girls.
In the end, that’s not so bad.