Family camping

We first went camping as a family around five years ago. The children had all experienced life under canvas on weekends away with their various Scout groups where they seemed to enjoy the adventure. My husband was keen to get away from home more frequently and saw camping as an affordable way to achieve this. I had camped with friends when I was in my late teens and early twenties but not since. I was unsure if I would be able to cope with the privations.

For our first foray we purchased a small, cheap tent and portable gas stove but little else. We made do with the basic sleeping bags and ground mats that we already owned and sat where we could to eat and chat. We had booked ourselves into a campsite recommended by friends for two nights but extended this to three when we discovered that we were enjoying ourselves. Despite the crowds, inadequate facilities and dodgy weather we had fun.

After that first trip we realised that we would need to purchase more equipment if we were to cope for longer than a few days but, buoyed by our positive experience, were willing to make the investment. Airbeds, folding chairs and a larger stove were ordered; camping review sites diligently searched; bookings at locations offering hot showers and the potential for good, local walks made.

Camping worked for us because we could live as a team. Despite the lack of comfort and a decent night’s sleep we all shared the daily tasks. Cooking and washing up became enjoyable activities as did the long walks and cycle rides that filled our days. We coped with the wind, rain and amenities shared with strangers with good humour. Eventually we ordered a larger tent, travelled further afield and camped for a week at a time. The discomfort was outweighed by the enjoyment and closeness achieved by the family unit.

Last summer the weather was persistently cold and wet in the weeks when we could have gone away so we opted to make a last minute booking at a cottage rather than use our tent. This holiday was not considered to be a success. It was decided that we should return to life under canvas this year if the weather made such a prospect at all desirable. When July was forecast to be warm and sunny, and it looked as if this might actually prove to be true, a booking at one of our favourite campsites was made.

The weather last week was the best we have ever camped in, but we discovered that the dynamic of the family has changed since our last comparable trip away. My youngest son is no longer willing to go on the long walks and cycle rides that the rest of us enjoy; in the last couple of years he has become grumpy and increasingly intransigent. Neither of my boys showed any interest in cooking so this was left to my husband as I am wary of cooking on a naked flame. The washing up was shared by all, but only with much persuasion.

The holiday was enjoyable but not in the way it used to be as we no longer worked as a team for the good of all. Neither my husband nor I felt able to relax as we could before. The boys did not seem interested in amusing themselves for long yet showed little enthusiasm for the activities that we suggested. A great deal of effort was required on our part before anything could be achieved.

I cannot help but wonder if this is the beginning of the end of family holidays; it would seem that we are all looking for something different in our time away from home. We have enough happy memories and experiences from the last week to have made it worthwhile, but I am unsure if we will do it again. We went on no long walks, and days out required expenditure that had not been necessary on previous excursions.

I am not surprised that my children are developing their own preferences and interests; it is only natural that they should do so. I can see that they gain more pleasure from time spent with friends and perhaps they will opt to go away with them more often than with us. Perhaps they will be as happy to simply stay at home.

We have packed away our tent and do not expect to use it again this year; I wonder when it will next be taken out of storage. It feels like the end of an era and this makes me rather sad. My husband and I are now discussing a possible night away without the boys. If what we enjoy doing with our free time does not mesh with their desires then perhaps it will be better to allow each to pursue adventure on their own.

This trip was the first that we had made without my daughter which, perhaps, made some difference. I will not write off the possibility of a future family camping trip just yet. If one is to be attempted though, the ground rules will have to be agreed by all before we venture forth.