Saturday, 30 July 2011

Letting go of the baby reins…just a little

Three nights last week were spent living in a tent on a campsite nestled in the heart of the New Forest.

One of the things I love most about camping is the sense of freedom and the way it forces you to leave behind modern day living – although it took us three adults a little bit of getting used to the fact that not only were we without internet connection, we simply had no phone signal at all (note for reference: if you do want to stay in touch with the outside world, mix up your networks a bit – three people on 3 with no signal just didn’t work!)

So, free we were to throw away responsibility for four days, let the kids run wild with filthy feet and matted hair as they made new best friends for five minutes and didn’t stop playing from dawn until dusk. Although I did start to question my newly-adopted laid-back approach to parenting when I discovered my six year old making herself a crisp sandwich for breakfast!

Camping was real adventure for S and a perfect opportunity to give her a little bit of the independence she longs for (she’s going through the six going on 16 stage right now). I remember my own childhood experiences of camping, roaming around the campsite with my new friends and not actually being aware that my parents were there at all!

So when she asked if she could go to the shop on her own I decided to let her and watched tentatively as she disappeared from sight just briefly and then returned with the correct change and two ice packs and a grin from ear to ear full of tales of her brief entry into the world of grown-ups. And from then on there was no stopping her. She wanted to do the washing up, walk to the toilet block on her own, fill up the water bottles…I could very easily have taken full advantage of my daughter’s enthusiasm and let her get on with the cooking too!!

Leaving camping behind and returning to normal life (and normal height – you spend a lot of time bending over when camping unless you’ve been sensible and invested in a proper camping stove!) I felt saddened by images in this week’s newspaper of Sarah Payne and Madeleine McCann, two little girls whose tragic tales are a reminder of the world we live in today. I want my daughter to grow up without fear of the outside world but balanced with an awareness that normal life isn’t like one big happy campsite, where parents look out for each other’s kids, and you can just pop to the shop on your own at the age of six (oh – and that it’s the only time when you will find grown-ups in the shop in their pyjamas!)

What this camping trip has taught me is that I need to use my imagination to find ways to let S have a little bit more independence , but in a closely supervised sort of way. Eeek – letting go of those baby reins is definitely not an easy thing to do…

Bring the Baby recommendation:

Highly recommended for baby-friendly camping is Red Shoot Campsite in Linwood in the New Forest. It’s clean and very well maintained and the staff are extremely friendly and welcoming. There’s a dedicated family wash room in addition to the spacious toilet and shower blocks, plus there’s a pub on site for those nights when you want a night off from cooking sausages and beans. 10/10

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