tentWell known parenting author Gary Smalley cites camping holidays as being the common denominator in families that relate well. Could be. Marvellous relationships were formed in bomb shelters during the Blitz and in POW camps, so camping holidays might well weld families together as they face shared adversity.

I have many recollections of childhood holidays in a ten-by-ten tent.

+        The taste of Dimp.

+        The smell of long forgotten lumps of bait in fishing bags.

+        The glee at watching moths singe themselves on the hissing kerosene lamp.

+        The endless games of Monopoly waiting for the weather to clear.

+        Playing “Spot the Mozzy” with the torch beams.

+        The sound of Dad digging trenches around the tent in the rain at midnight.

+        The flavour of condensed milk on your Weetbix.

+        The chill of a sleeping bag zipper against the small of my back.

+        Toast made on a Primus that was very much like untoasted bread, except with charred patches and a distinct taste of kerosene.

+        The chilly, torch-lit trip to the long-drop “poop-tent”, where I discovered more than I ever wanted to know about New Zealand’s nocturnal insect life.

Considering all this enriching experience… it’s astounding I ever spoke to my parents again. It’s perhaps even more astounding that I would want to inflict similar deprivation on my own children.  But I did. Gary Smalley has got it right. Family holidays together in a strange environment really do do something for families. Many kids never get to see their Mum or Dad face a bigger challenge than resetting the digital clock after a power failure, but on a camping holiday, their role becomes redefined as they protect and provide for the family in a much more visible way.  Kids learn a taste for adventure. And above all, camping is fun, and few things are as healthy for family relationships as having fun together.

Camping is a sacrifice. You sacrifice the comfort of your inner-sprung for a camp bed, the convenience of your microwave for a camp-fire, and you sacrifice all that vacation time you could be spending on doing-up the house or garden. So what do you get for your sacrifice? Memories in your child’s mind that that will grow in colour and importance throughout their lives. They will not remember the peeling paint or straggling gardens of their childhood, but they will remember the adventures of camping with you.  Go on – make some memories. But don’t forget the Dimp.