In 2013, Brian and Lori Miller and their two children began a quest to visit all 52 Vermont State Parks. This year, they crossed the halfway mark. When the Millers began their quest, the kids were ages 2 and 4, which made some people wonder. Why would a family with kids so young try to accomplish such a goal? In this Park Story, they answer, with an essay and a list.
When you camp with young kids, there are many moments that beg the Ben and Jerry’s bumper sticker question, “If it’s not fun, why do it?” Moments like loading up the car. And unloading the car. Setting up the campsite when your kids, after an hour and a half in the car, just want you to play with them. And those whiney, tired moments when brotherly/sisterly love is in short supply. Not to mention that of husband and wife! There are moments when family camping is not fun — or easy. So why do it?
In these past 3 seasons of camping, we have discovered many answers to that question. Every camping family will discover their own reasons and create their own wonderful moments. We would like to share some of ours. In no particular order – because each has its own value – here they are:
Our kids enjoy the outdoors and appreciate nature. They point out beautiful sunsets and odd-looking bugs. They take time to observe the world around them.
At Maidstone this June our son was trying to catch tadpoles with his new net. When we got done he turned around and said, “Dad, that was fun!”
Our daughter’s laughter and giggles while playing made up games in the water, such as getting flipped off the inner tube.
While camping at Stillwater this past July our son was fishing at Ricker pond. He caught a really small fish but his smile was bigger than you can imagine. Then when we were walking back to the car he put his arms over his head and said, “That was awesome!”
Our daughter’s smile when she finally got to go down the slide at the Button Bay pool. Then she said, “Button Bay is my favorite park!”
Our son having a little bit of a tantrum because…you’ll never guess…someone had left some trash on the ground at Button Bay. The tantrum was because I didn’t have a bag to put it in because we were on our bikes. But he wanted to pick it up Right. That. Second! Finally, I asked the guy who was preparing to open up the pool if he had a trash bag. Thank goodness he did. Tantrum over. Garbage picked up. Good citizenship learned.
Valuable lessons are learned. Patience. Sharing. Helping. Taking care of the Earth. Sand can be slippery both on the bottom of your shoes and on a bike (double bonus, two sand lessons in one day and no one got hurt from them even though they could have).
Our kids say goodnight to the moon and the stars and good morning to the fish. And even to the water snakes that made their dad paranoid for the entire weekend.
Our daughter and son made up a game where they line up about 30 yards apart, run past each other, and give high fives. This lasted for much longer than you might imagine. (Too bad it didn’t happen while we were trying to set up the tent!)
Sitting around the campfire, making up stories, and eating s’mores.
This is a small sampling of answers to “Why do it?” The answers come in surprising moments. They are heartwarming and wonderful. They give me hope for the future of this world and our kids. They make me feel better when we are asked for the umpteenth time, “When are we going to get there?” both on the way to the park and again on the way home.
We would like to thank the Vermont State Parks and all their cheerful and enthusiastic employees for another season of adventures, learning, and family moments. Next summer our kids will be one year older, one year more independent, and, if we’re lucky, one year easier to take camping. But we do it regardless because it creates bonding, stories, learning, and shared laughter. To Ben and Jerry’s, I would offer up a new bumper sticker that reads: Even if it’s not always fun, do it anyway. It will always be worth it.