A couple of summers ago I felt like my family was falling apart. The kids were bickering much more than usual, my husband and I were constantly on edge, and the general concepts of teamwork and service – which are usually major components of our family life – were just… gone.
One day, after breaking up the fifth argument of the afternoon, I decided that I needed to do something drastic.
“That’s it!” I said. “We’re going to a campground.”
Now, before you start picturing a fun family camping event, re-read what I said. You’ll notice that I did not say we were going camping.
No. That’s an entirely different thing.
I said we were going to a campground.
And that’s what we did.
We stopped by the house and grabbed blankets and pillows and a box of matches. We stopped by the store and picked up a package of hotdogs, a package of marshmallows, and two jugs of water.
And then we went to the campground.
At first the kids were confused.
“Where’s the tent?”
“We aren’t using a tent.”
“Uh… where are the chairs?”
“We aren’t using chairs.”
“Okay… where will we sleep?”
“In the van.”
“Where will we sit?”
“On the seats that we will take out of the van.”
“Are you serious?”
With that one word, AWESOME, I got my family back. The kids all jumped into set-up camp mode. They took the seats out of the van and placed them around the fire pit, made up beds, and then went out to forage for firewood and roasting sticks.
That evening we sat around the fire, eating our gourmet meal of hot dogs and marshmallows, and talked. We talked about some of our favorite memories, we told funny stories, and we planned the adventures we wanted to take.
Then we went around the circle and everyone shared what he or she appreciated about everyone else in the family.
It was… Awesome.
The next morning as we got ready to leave, my youngest son went and climbed into the bear box.
“What are you doing?”
“I want to stay here. I want to stay camping.”
“But if we take the van, where will you sleep?”
“I’ll sleep in the bear box.”
The rest of the kidlets didn’t think that was too shabby of an idea.
And so we stayed.
We didn’t sleep in the bear box. Or in the van.
My husband went home and got our camping gear, and we spent the next two days hanging out and having fun.
Although we have never again gone as simple as the hotdog and marshmallow episode, we still love to camp. In fact, last summer we spent an entire month at a campground. Most of our friends and extended family questioned our sanity, but we knew that the campground was probably the only thing keeping us sane.
It was home.
Recently I have done the technological equivalent of putting everything aside and heading to a campground.
Well, you know, as much as I can. I still have to work, and 99.92% of my work is done online. And I am staying in touch with my closest friends and family, and 99.92% of them communicate via text only.
But I have kept it as simple as possible. No social media. No visiting countless news and gossip sites.
And no taking online quizzes.
The results have been incredible.
I am reading more. Like actually reading books. Lots and lots of books.
I am writing more. I am working on both personal projects and professional projects, and I am so excited to write every day.
My house is cleaner.
I am exercising more.
I no longer feel rushed or distracted, and I feel a sense of calm that has been gone for so long.
But the best part?
My connection with my family is stronger.
Gone from my home is the constant echo of, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom…”
See, I thought that was just part of being a mother to four children. I thought that it was normal.
What I have learned, though, is that it’s not normal. Not for my home, at least.
Once the kids realized that they no longer had to compete with my phone, they relaxed. They saw that saying my name once was enough.
They know that I am here – both in body and in mind.
Spending less of my free time online means that I spend more of my free time just being present.
It’s amazing how six people can all sit in a room together, reading quietly, yet still feel like they are connected.
It’s not like that when we are online.
When we are online we are connected with everything other than what’s right around us.
And that can cause issues.
I absolutely love what my time offline has brought my family, and I don’t really want to give it back.
So I am going to stay offline as much as I can.
I do miss interacting with my Facebook friends, though. But right now, I just can’t. My family needs me. And I need them.
So I’ll sleep in the bear box.
I am going to continue writing and blogging, and I may share some of those posts on social media, but I may not. If you want to get email updates when I post something, you can subscribe to my blog. Or if you follow me on Twitter or follow the Jane Rodda Books Facebook profile, those will also automatically update whenever I post.
Until then, pass the marshmallows.
See you soon!