Today we welcome Gretchen of the blog, Desert Survivor, to Tales of a Mountain Mama. I love this post because I think so many of us can relate: those that are full-time single parents AND those of us (like myself) that have husbands working very long hours in the summer especially. If you can relate, please feel free to chime in in the comments. As always, please read all the way to the end to learn more about Gretchen and find her blog!
My two kids, ages 6 and 3, love to go camping. I enjoy it, and last year logged over 20 nights away from a roof. But my husband is a rancher, which means it’s really hard for him to get away from the ranch, especially in summer, when the weather is nice for camping. So what do we do?
Sometimes we all camp in the backyard or only a few miles from home. But I have the travel bug, and sometimes I just can’t resist going a little further away and seeing something different. So I load up the kids and off we go. Sometimes I question my sanity, but overall, I think it’s worth it to go camping as a “single” parent.
What strategies can you use as a single parent to make your camping trip fun for everyone?
Camp with friends. This is one of my favorite ways to camp, because if the kids have friends to play with, they have a lot more fun, which means I have a lot more fun! I also love having some other adult companions so we can kick back in the lawn chairs and compare notes on life.
Train the kids young. Once my kids are old enough to walk, they’re old enough to help set up camp! My six-year old is now decent help putting up the tent, something I started training him at when he was about four. My three-year old loves to take the pillows and sleeping bags out of the duffels and arrange them in the tent. They both know how to get things ready to eat, and they are slowly progressing on the clean-up part of things.
Take it easy. No matter what you’ve got planned, make sure you have some down time. The kids love to play around the campsite. This is the best place to make forts, chase birds, dig holes, make mud pies, glue things together with tree sap, and more. This also gives you some time to relax. If you don’t get some down time, you probably won’t want to go camping again, so make sure you have time to yourself.
Have the kids help pack food. They can help decide what to eat—and when you’re camping, it’s good to relax those nutritional guidelines that may be in place at home. Camping, especially camping as a single parent, means that it’s okay to go with easy-to-prepare food. Some of our favorites: hot dogs, canned soup, ramen, cereal, baby carrots, watermelon, and oranges. If the kids help pack the food, they’re often more willing to help prepare it.
Pack a few toys. We try to keep the electronics in the car. When we’re at camp, it’s time to explore. Buckets, shovels, magnifying glasses are great. So are a t-ball stand and bat. When we forget the ball, we just use pinecones! Stomp rockets may be an introduction to tree climbing to retrieve lost rockets.
Be prepared for the worst—and laugh about it. Something goes awry during every camping trip. That’s part of what makes those great camping memories! We still laugh about the time we forgot to zip the doors shut and the big rain storm came; the time my three-year old convinced me she didn’t need a night diaper and we woke up in a warm puddle; the freak wind storm that blew the tent into the next campsite; forgetting to bring a can opener for a dinner that consisted solely of canned food. Diaper wipes and duct tape really can fix most anything.
So my advice is to give camping as a single parent a try. It’s harder than having two adults, but it is doable, and it can be a lot of fun. It’s okay to mix a combination of camping and motels. And just remember—by getting your kids outside, you’re creating life-long memories.
Gretchen lives with her family on a ranch in the high desert of the Great Basin, near Great Basin National Park. She is still learning about what it takes to live in the desert and blogs about their adventures at Desert Survivor.
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