If Carlsberg did camping.
The family and I have just returned from a long weekend camping with friends at a local YMCA family camp site. It was everything a camping trip should be: the sun shone fiercely (most of the time); the kids ran feral in the woods (returning only to eat and change their mud-soaked clothing); the adults chatted, relaxed and regressed to childhood by making FIRE (admittedly in a rather grown-up fire pit, but great fun nonetheless); and everyone managed 3 nights under canvas without turning to ice (the British summer looking kindly on campers for once). In short, we all had a great time.
Holidays always have the capacity for calamity; holidays with children, even more so; and a camping holiday with 13 children therefore, must surely rank highly in terms of disaster potential. And yes, of course there were numerous mini-disasters across 4 days of camping: there were arguments and fall outs; there were forgotten towels and mugs and washing up liquid; there were spillages and ruined clothes; there were tears and tantrums and too many late nights, but these are not the moments we will remember; they are not the moments which will fill us with a warm glow and make us excited as we plan our trip next year.
Of all the fabulous moments on our trip however, one moment stood out. It was one of those moments where you mentally step back and assess your lot from the point of an outside observer. Often these moments leave me inwardly chuckling at the ridiculous situations I find myself it; frequently they also leave me with the seeds of an idea for a blog post; and just occasionally they cause me to swell with happiness and glow with contentment and to marvel at how fabulous life can be. This was one of those moments.
It was our last night camping and, after two decent nights’ sleep and plenty of outdoor adventure, we all had the slightly excitable air of people who can’t quite believe things have gone so well. We had agreed in planning that this would be the communal BBQ night and a group had been dispatched to the supermarket well in advance with a carefully curated list for the perfect BBQ. When the shoppers returned, all the camping tables were assembled in a long line ready for the banquet and it was all hands on deck for burger cooking, salad chopping and sweetcorn skewering. Even amidst this flurry of activity I had a slightly surreal feeling that I was involved in an event far more efficient and organised than anything I was used to: Why was no-one screaming that the bread rolls had been forgotten? Why was everyone working together so seamlessly with no social loafing or competitive chopping? Why were the kids happily playing, content to pinch the odd cherry tomato while the BBQ worked its magic, rather than running underfoot clamouring to be fed? What strange magic was this?
If the preparations seemed smooth, then it foretold a moment of perfection when I sat down with my plate of food and surveyed the scene, taking in the table of muddy, scarecrow-haired children happily chomping on burgers; the groups of adults jovially arguing over the last slice of halloumi cheese (apparently there can never be enough of this salty wonder food!); and the bright sun gradually setting behind the trees in a cloudless sky, and I marvelled at the sight. For what could beat this? What moment could be more perfect than a group of friends in a field eating barbecued sweetcorn and laughing? All the times I had sniggered at the picture perfect catalogue images of families enjoying camping and here I was sitting right inside one. All the times we had separately and collectively failed at camping (or made a slight bodge job of it, at least), and here we were winning at it. There are many moments in life when we feel like we’re not winning at anything and in parenting this is doubly true, but for THAT moment, in OUR little corner of the world, we won.
And if Carlsberg did camping….it would probably look something like that moment.