My Father's Day Choice
Emily’s family decided to go camping over Father’s Day weekend. I have nothing against camping. Both Emily and I grew up camping, and we camped together when we were newly married, and even after having kids. But after a camping trip with a toddler that wouldn’t stop running away and a baby who wouldn’t sleep, and ending with rain soaking all of our gear, we swore that our camping days were done. It didn’t make any sense to go away for the weekend and come back feeling like we had been hit by a car and then beaten with a 2x4. So, we stashed our camping gear away and haven’t camped for about 8 years.
Despite that, some of Emily’s cousins that she doesn’t get to see very often were going to be on this camping trip and she really wanted to spend the time with them, so she decided she was going to go. The initial plan was for her to take the kids by herself, and I would stay home alone for the weekend. This plan sounded good to me. I was imagining going hiking by myself, getting some work done around the house, and enjoying a quiet weekend. Alone.
Frankly, this sounded like a nice Father’s Day to me.
But the more I thought about it, the guiltier I began to feel. Our girls were really excited about going camping, and I knew they would have a great time and would have great memories of this trip… memories that didn’t involve me. I also knew that this would be a ton of work for Emily without me along…. and I wasn’t crazy about her driving alone with the kids the 3 hours to Trough Creek State Park.
So I decided that I had a duty as a Husband and Father to go along on this trip and that I would just make the best of it. As it turns out, that wasn’t very hard. We had a great trip.
We had a nice drive through some rural areas of our state that I’ve never been through.
The campground was secluded and peaceful.
The “pit toilets” were nicer than I was expecting.
The surrounding area was beautiful.
The weather was literally perfect for camping. It actually could not have been any better. This was of course very helpful, because even die-hard campers know that rain is miserable.
We had a blast with the family together (18 kids and 8 adults if I’m counting properly).
By the end of the weekend I was realizing what a mistake it would have been to stay home. I know I would have enjoyed doing my own thing, but it also would have felt empty. I would have missed out on a weekend of memories that I would never be able to reclaim in exchange for indulging my wants. That’s not a good trade-off.
This all reminded me of one of the keys to being a good parent, which is selflessness. Over and over again as a parent we take the things that we want, and put them aside. The things we want to do, spend money on, listen to, say, or spend our time on; and toss them aside for the good of our family.
I’m not advocating that you NEVER take time for yourself as a parent. I also understand that we have to work, and get things done around the house, and pay bills and do any number of other things that require we tell our kids that we’re busy and can’t do what they are asking at the moment. But when possible, we need to be sure that we are selfless enough to put down the phone and pay attention to them, or agree to play the board game that we really don’t want to play, or throw baseball when maybe there are other things that we could be doing…. Or go camping when we’d like to stay home and relax.
In the end, the time we devote to our families will be well-spent.
Plus, if I hadn’t gone camping I wouldn’t have this picture of me with my girls on Father’s Day...