Camping with the Progeny

Over the past year the progeny and I have started camping together. When I first took them, I hoped they would have fun. I could not have predicted how much fun we all would have. Now, once each month we pick some state park and head off for two or three nights. After a couple weeks without a camping trip, both #1 and #2 start asking when we’re going again and where? They pull our Best Tent Camping in Pennsylvania off the shelf and start flagging places they would like to visit.[1]

We take a journal—the Field Notes “Expedition” journal because it’s weather proof and strong—and set of waterproof pens with us each time and each evening take turns writing in it or drawing pictures of things that interested us. I recently looked back at our first journal and marveled at what they noticed and chose to record (our drawings are a bit more rudimentary, but we all mean well).

Looking out over Lake Jean one lazy Thursday afternoon.

Looking out over Lake Jean one lazy Thursday afternoon.

In our hyper-connected society where people check their smart phones 150 times a day (or about 10 times per waking hour) in any context,[2] in our screen-saturated society where it is difficult to escape the barrage of moving images,[3] a few days without cell reception and without electricity is indescribably pleasant. I cherish the undistracted time with #1 and #2, sitting by the fire, hiking or exploring, skipping stones across a pond, turning over rocks hoping to find little creatures, looking at stars, lying in our tent telling ghost stories. The days are filled with conversation and laughter and questions. Just the three of us. I learn a lot about what interests them and how they explore the world. I realize just how wonderful they are—as children and as people.

  1. As we make our way around the state parks we are slowly updating the Best Camping in Pennsylvania book. Stay tuned for a link to a new, “Camping PA” page.  ↩

  2. The Meeker report is the source of this commonly repeated number. The report includes all sorts of other interesting information, e.g., the percentage of internet traffic that is moving to smart phones and other mobile devices, the amount of information we “share” and the number of social networks we use to share that information. Regardless of your thoughts about social networks and (over)sharing, time and attention are zero-sum games. You cannot simultaneously be present in your experience and be sharing that experience. Every moment spent online is a moment not spent offline.  ↩

  3. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey found that people spend another 2.8 hours of leisure time a day watching TV (this doesn’t include computers or tablets). Recent research has raised real questions about the effects of so much time in front of screens (see also the NPR report, “Kids and Screen Time”).  ↩


Running Late? Just Park it Anywhere.

Trying to get everybody out the door in the morning is a pain. Some days the progeny seem possessed by the dilatory demons, or the sartorial gods conspire against us. Some days things just go all pear-shaped. We all run late now and then—we should be considerate of those around us when that happens.

There’s another class of parents who run chronically late, as in daily. In most other contexts, these parents are often nice people and lively conversationalists. But in the morning, when they’ve arrived late to school, they’re unpleasant and unhappy. They careen through the drop-off circle and bark at their little darlings to jump out of the car as they slow to the posted speed limit. Or they skid to a halt in the middle of the parking lot in a shower of gravel and dust, leap from the car, and hound, push, prod, and propel their offspring into class with threats like “If you don’t hurry, you’re going to be late.”[1]

No really, just park anywhere.

No really, just park anywhere.

Seriously, when you arrive late, just embrace your tardiness. Park like a normal person. Talk to your child about the upcoming day as you stroll into school. Stop by the office to let them know your child is late but not absent. Walk your child to class. Kiss your child goodbye. Then walk back to your car and drive to work.

And remember, no matter where you park or how many people you inconvenience, your child is still late to school (and you’ll probably be late too).

  1. Yes, I have heard parents say this as they shove or drag little Tobias or little Beatrix into school. Perhaps what the parent means is: “Hurry up so I don’t have to speed to get to work on time” or “Hurry up so I’m not late” or “Hurry up so I can meet my friends for coffee.” If that’s the case, then say so. With some regularity, however, I see the same parent standing around chatting with other parents after depositing their little loved ones at class. If what you mean is “Hurry so you are no too late,” just say that. But really, once you are late, just enjoy being a few minutes late (vide supra).  ↩

Are Kidneys the same as Kid Knees?

#2 has been a little sore and moving a bit slowly the last couple days. She fell from the monkey bars and landed on her back. This morning as I pressed different places on her back to see if she still hurt, The Mother remarked that she had been worried about #2’s kidneys. #2 looked up vaguely confused and pointed out that she had landed on her back.

The Mother: “Ya, that’s why I’m worried about your kidneys”
#2: “But my kid knees aren’t on my back. They’re right here. See, this is my kid knee.”

Number 2 points to her right kid knee.

#2 points to her right kid knee.

After we finished laughing, I explained what kidneys are and where they are. Of course, from now on I’m confident we’ll be talking about our kid knees and our adult knees and our old parent knees.

Reading through the pain

#2 woke early this morning, around 6:30. She trundled downstairs to sit with me. She was not feeling good—yesterday she fell off the monkey bars and hurt her back and she is fighting a cold. I asked if she wanted some Tylenol. She said she just wanted me to read to her. So we curled up under a blanket and read Carnival at Candlelight, Magic Tree House #33.

#2 and I are working our way through the Magic Tree House series.

#2 and I are working our way through the Magic Tree House series.

When we finished, she seemed to be feeling a bit better. And since it was a beautiful autumn morning, we walked up to the corner bagel shop and got breakfast. Then we popped across the street to the local bookstore, Children’s Book World, and picked up a few new Magic Tree House books. Later in the day, when #2 was wilting a bit, we sat down and started another. We were scarcely half way through before she was asleep on my shoulder.

Tech Giants aren’t necessarily better parents

Who cares that Steve Jobs didn’t let his kids play with iPads?[1] Or that Evan Williams makes his children read “books (yes, physical ones)” instead of letting them play with iPads? On the one hand, these parents are not child-rearing experts. They, like most of us, draw on unscientific, anecdotal, personal experience as they fumble along trying not to cause too much harm.[2] On the other hand, their more moderate policies are banal: set basic limits on what and how long your child can play on a device. And pace Ali Partovi, parents should probably apply this guideline to everything their children might want to do compulsively.

  1. We might pause to enjoy the irony here: Steve Jobs’ reportedly denied his children access to the device that he celebrated as having such wonderful potential for children of all ages.  ↩
  2. Dick Costolo’s goofy story about some guy in college who went on a Coca-Cola binge (and the old chestnut about what happens when you don’t expose children to [fill in your favorite thing here]) illustrates nicely the unscientific approach these “tech parents” bring to rearing their children.  ↩