I, like every mom and dad I know, got into parenting for one reason; the money. No, wait. That’s why I got into junk bonds. (And look how well THAT turned out.) Now why did I get into parenting again? Oh yeah, for the rewards. Not the monetary kind, mind you, but the kind you get when you actually do something with your kids. And when I say “do something” I don’t mean stick them in front of an XBox 360 while you have margaritas out back with the other moms in the neighborhood (although that’s a thought).
No, what I mean is to actually go somewhere and do something that both adults and the small fry will enjoy. A Disney Cruise comes to mind, but since most of us have already maxed our second and third home equity lines of credit, you might want to start smaller. Disneyland itself is always an option, but unless all the kids in your family are all over 48 inches tall, either Mom or Dad is going to be sitting out Space Mountain with a crying short person, while everyone else in the family repeatedly rides it until they all have herniated necks. Besides Disneyland isn’t cheap anymore either. A family of four might as well look into what it costs to go up in the Space Shuttle instead.
For inexpensive family fun, it’s hard to beat the good, old stand-by…camping. Camping is not only a wonderful way to force interaction with your family, it’s also a great source of entertainment for the kids when they get to watch Dad (the pencil pusher) pitch a tent and start a fire with two sticks that aren’t matches. Even if Dad was an Eagle Scout, remember that was a long time ago. The knowledge behind merit badges earned in 1978 has an expiration date of about 1998 whether Dad wants to admit it or not.
Mom’s also a laugh a minute on a camping trip. Kids, if you really want to see that vein pop out in her forehead, don’t forget to ask her why her rear end looks so big in hiking shorts, and by the way, what are all those purple and blue lines all over your legs? After Mom engages in a delicate discussion of the word “varicose” with a fourth grader, there’s always the joy of cooking over an open fire, only to hear “You promised us In-N-Out Burger on this trip.”
So where’s the joy in camping with your kids? Okay, here it is. Nothing endears you more to your children than looking like a buffoon in front them. These little people think you are the most amazing thing next to God. Everyday you miraculously solve all their problems ranging from Math Olympiad to “Why is my brother such an idiot.” In their inexperienced eyes, you are infallible. That can be pretty intimidating, and as we’ve all read in our millions of parenting books, intimidation does not equal respect. Letting your child watch you fail, and then laugh about it, will probably make you even more extraordinary to them. There’s nothing wrong with your child seeing you struggle outside your element, because let’s face it, we all struggle everyday (but they’re at school so they don’t get to witness it). And what better gift can you give your kid than to show him the world doesn’t end if your marshmallow falls off your stick into the campfire.
So yes, camping is a cheap way to get your family together and at the same time reveal your human side to your kids. And if you’re a great camper, well, then you’re just going to have to find some other way to look like a goober in front of your children. Fortunately, there’s always bowling and the skateboard park as back-ups.
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“Camp Humble” is an excerpt from Stacy’s hilarious book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon.com.
Stacy Dymalski is a stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage.