This post could also be titled, “Where Did My Baby Go” or “Aliens Took Over My Child’s Body.”
When my son, Milo, was around 8, my father-in-law casually said, “you know, by the age of 13 he’ll be gone.” Then he made a whooshing sound. At the time, I was thinking, “13? This kid loves me more than anything! We’re best friends! He’ll probably live in our neighborhood when he grows up, and we’ll have a beer every Tuesday.”
And then I was wrong. By eleven, Milo didn’t want to hang out with his parents anymore. Like at all. It became about his friends and becoming independent. My father-in-law was two years off. I think the cell phone culture has changed the age of individuation from 13 to 11. Whatever the hell happened, it was devastating to my wife and me.
But this summer, I discovered something magical that brought us together again.
Camping allows you to trap your child. There’s no escape. Especially if there’s no cell phone service. It’s just you guys. Hanging out. Again. Like the old days. They’ll remember they used to play with you. And without their friends around, they will be forced to acknowledge that you were once fun. Without any other options, they must deal with and tolerate your awkward uncoolness. And eventually, they will loosen up and enjoy your company.
Reserve a campsite way in advance. Pick a great spot. A river with swimming holes is the best in my opinion. We swam all day. Bring a mask and snorkel. Bring books, arts and crafts, a frisbee, and a candy, lots of candy.
Leave your tween time for introspection. But do take a picture of your tween introspecting.
Appreciate the nature. Remember all this will need to be Instagrammed later.
Find yourself saying, “nature is cool but weird and kind of creepy sometimes.”
After you’ve chugged down some Starbucks instant coffee, take an early morning water reflection picture while your tween is still sleeping.
Make delicious food but eat a lot of junk food, too. Like s’mores.
Goof off on the roadtrip.
And be close once again.