One Hundred Seventy Two: Campin’ Solo


“The good thing about flying solo is it’s never boring.”  – Steve Fossett

Saturday, June 21st

I signed up for a sponsored urban camp-out months ago as a back-up if there weren’t enough low-income families in subsidized housing who registered. We got the call a month ago that we were in, and it was the first summer event to look forward to. I intentionally did not sign up my husband so he could have the night off, and so I could try my hand at camping solo with my little dears.

The kids didn’t really have a firm idea of what we were doing until we had our backpacks in hand standing in line to get checked in. We would be sharing a rustic cabin with two other families and participating in a variety of outdoor activities with a half a dozen more families. When we got to the cabin it donned on my children that this was their overnight home…and things really got fun. They were climbing all over the bunk beds, running in and out of the cabin, and marking their territory with giggles and hijinks.

We went to the big open meadow in the center of the park and saw some familiar faces – our librarian friend and the early childhood educator who works at the community center where we registered for this event. We met some of the other families, but really had a lot of time to roam and explore at our leisure before dinner was served. I checked our cabin every hour or so to look for evidence of our cabin-mates’ arrival, to no avail. By dinner, I figured that they weren’t coming and we would have the cabin all to ourselves. It felt like a complementary upgrade!

I tend to keep my children relatively close since they are still so young, but when I am parenting solo there are situations where I need to put more trust in them and loosen the reigns. It’s good to ask them for help. I have great kids and they like to be helpers. I was sure that after dinner they would be really worn out and want to go to bed, but once there was talk of smores it became clear that this adventure would continue on into the night. So off to the fire pit to sing songs and play nature games we went. After the smores there was a nighttime nature walk, so we joined that too. By time we got back to the cabin it was 10:00 pm, but bedtime went smoothly and the only struggle was waking their sleepy heads the next morning for breakfast.

One thing I had been mulling about was that we were one of two Caucasian families. Issues of race had been on my mind since my daughter had asked the day before (at an end of school community party) why we were the only Americans there. I explained that Americans come in all colors and from all countries of the world, and asked whether perhaps she was meaning ask “Why are we the only family here with white skin?” It was a rich conversation to have with a five-year-old, and reminded me that even though these families live about five blocks away from me that there were a lot of social and economic barriers that kept us from mingling. It is the reason why I have taken my children to the playtime in the neighborhood with subsidized housing since they were babies, so that they could meet children who may look different and speak a different language but who play and laugh just the same. I felt as comfortable as I ever am in a new situation (slightly awkward and nervous but open to talking), but it struck to me that there would be a difference in my experience from the other families of color. Race does matter. It felt important to acknowledge that since it is not something I usually think about while my neighbors of color have to think about this every day – mainly in the structures of inequality across our society.

By the end of the event, the kids and I were hepped up on the entire experience. Nature walks with park naturalists. Rock climbing. Smore roasting. Bonding with other families. Being outdoors after our bedtime and having good old-fashioned fun. We proved to ourselves that we could do it without the one person who sets up the tent and cooks the beans every time.

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone to try something new lately?



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