Saturday, August 29, 2015

Camping with a toddler

We are two adults with a two-almost-three-year-old toddler.  Camping is therefore even more of an adventure than it might otherwise be, especially if you factor in a three-hour drive and the fact that toddlers are, generally speaking, insane and suicidal. Or so you might think.

I tend to think that we parents somehow manage to convey our preconceived notions about what our kids are like to our kids:  that if we believe that they are in their "terrible-twos" then the kids will oblige us by being terrible.  Karel and I joke that kidlet is fast approaching becoming a "threenager", but the reality is that I don't think he's going to be a problem when he's 3. Now, it's also true that we have a very good kidlet in general, which tends to inform our expectations.

So a three-hour car trip was something that we expected him to handle well.  He's gone with us to Groningen several times and that trip is a little more than two hours, so three-hours wasn't that mch of a stretch. It helps to have the one toddler who is content to look out the window and enjoy the view, who doesn't need snacks constantly (although if it has been a while since his last meal I'm not opposed to giving him a biscuit), and who can tolerate a three-hour drive without whining or screaming or crying or being so traumatized that getting him into the carseat is a struggle.  I don't pretend that this personality fluke is due to anything we've done.  It's just how things are.

Keeping kidlet amused at the campsite was also simple:  just let him run around.  He'd find rocks to throw into the river and sticks to thwack against the trees without any help.  We were at least a hundred yards from our nearest camp-neighbors, so he had room a-plenty to run around and just delight in being a kid.  It was when the weather got rainy that things took an unexpected turn:  I'd packed some of his favorite trucks and cars in case we were tent-bound, but he surprised me by preferring to read his books instead. When we went camping on the Waal, we remembered to bring his little loopfiets, and he could easily spend hours riding that thing.

Kidlets don't really need a lot to amuse them:  When we went walking, the promise of blackberries straight off the vine was enough to get him started; the idea of "taking over" a castle was enough to get him to finish the entirely-uphill trip to the castle.  Just wading in the stream, splashing and getting his toes nibbled at by the fishes, was enough to keep him amused for over an hour--and even when we got home he was still asking to go into the water.

I'll confess, even I sometimes get guilted into feeling that we could be doing more for kidlet--whether it's more educational activities or taking him to spend more time at the playground or such.  I do sometimes wonder if we're providing him with enough stimulation, if watching and re-watching "The Gruffalo" is really enough for him.  But then again, I'm glad that he still gets so much pleasure out of sticks and stones and seeing fish in a stream and giant snails on the ground and watching trucks rumble by on the bridge. To my mind, this is the real disadvantage of our digital age:  that the simple pleasure of smacking a stick into a puddle and enjoying the splash is no longer enough for kids, that everything has some kind of end-goal to work towards, rather than just enjoying the blackberry or finding (yet another) rock to toss.  

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