For those of you who have known me over the years, you will have seen me mention from time to time about my family, and my daughter Eden.
“Edie” is 7 now, and over the holidays, an opportunity presented itself for dad and daughter to have a go at camping.
Disclaimer: I’m not the most practical “outdoorsy”person in the world, and up until a few weeks back, I had had almost no experience of camping (being kicked out of Scouts twice as a teenager probably didn’t help my skill set in this situation).
In situations such as this, Mum has Edie’s 18 month old brother Liam to contend with, an adorable little boy who has a penchant for running off in a particular direction, and never, ever looking back – the kid is either very securely attached, or desperately unhappy with his lot, but either way, he ain’t a strong contender for camping right now, owing to the parental containment issues he presents :)
Anyway, the online product voucher promotion service “Dailydo” was running a camping special, and I thought “Oh, why not?”
I then phoned a friend about the camping idea who has a daughter the same age as mine, and together with his wife, we all picked a date, and away we drove.
On our arrival, I discovered two things: tents can be difficult beasts at times, and 7 year-old girls who are good friends don’t want to help with camp set-up, which is why my friends experience as a LANDSAR Search & Rescue volunteer came in so handy at the time.
My opportunity to repay my friends kindness presented itself quickly: while he could read maps and all-terrain wilderness like you and I can read a “Hungry Caterpillar” picture-book, there was a few essential items he had forgotten to pack, which I had with me.
(“Packing” is a pretty loose term for how I prepared for this trip – when there simply wasn’t any more space in the car to put things, I just stopped looking for stuff to take).
Over the space of the trip, having never travelled together before, our two families worked in concert, often unspoken, and had a great time.
So, what did camping teach me about relationships?
1/ I learnt that choosing to doing new things is scary, but ultimately worth it: When I decided to embark on a camping trip, I was out of my comfort zone, I felt awkward, unsure, and at times clumsy – but I did it anyway. Relationships by their very nature can risk getting “stuck” in how things have always been – change is seen as threatening, when really, it’s just different. Positive change takes time, humility, and applied practice.
2/ I learnt that two people in relationship don’t always have to move “as one” to “be one”: The practicalities of my whole family going away together right now, for us at least, don’t suit – so I went away, and Deb stayed home. Couples don’t have to always head in exactly the same direction, or have exactly the same interests, in order to be together. It’s OK to have different interests or passions, as long as these same interests or passions don’t undermine the primary relationship, by being pursued as alternatives to the primary relationship.
3/ I learnt that reciprocity of goodwill matters, and that “tuning in” to the needs of others also matters – a lot: Our two families have different strengths and skill sets, and were willing to both help and be helped, reciprocally. There was no hierarchy of expertise, nor patronising undermining chastisement, nor a “tally score” being kept of how many times one had helped or assisted the other – we simply showed up when we needed to, for each other, and for our children. Relationships are not meant to be treated as competitions, where one party wins, and another party loses – because ultimately, when a relationship is a competition – both lose.
For us, there has been, and will continue to be, more camping trips.
In this experience, I’ve discovered skills I didn’t know I had, and a level of patience that has probably laid latent for years (have you ever noticed how something you buy from the shop can’t be packed in exactly the same space as the product originally came out of?).
Change and new learning is possible – we just have to show up and work at it, and when we do, the rewards will come.
Mine certainly have.
Kind Regards, Steve Taylor, Director, 24-7 Ltd
For client practice feedback and testimonials, go here.