By sea, under stars, families became friends
By Michael C. DeMattos
By Michael C. DeMattos
Last week, our family joined about a dozen other families from my daughter's school for the annual summer campout.
While we missed summer vacation by a few weeks, when it comes to camping, better late than never. Besides, we had a ton of fun.
At least I think my daughter had fun. It's all kind of a blur.
I was so busy bodysurfing with the other dads and "talking story" with the other moms, I lost track of the keiki. Not that they weren't supervised, mind you. In fact, quite the contrary, for one weekend each of the kids had the true village experience; there were uncles and aunties everywhere you turned.
While the invitation for the campout was extended to all the families, the reality is that only a handful actually made it to the site. Those who showed up have a few things in common.
First, they like to camp. Unlike a class dinner, a party at Dave & Buster's or a day at the water park, camping is a real commitment. One must forgo the creature comforts of modern society and be willing to share resources (including the bathroom) for several days.
Second, folks who make it to camp are somehow able to clear their calendar. This is no easy feat considering the ever-present soccer practice, endless birthday parties and requisite piano lessons. It is easier for a multinational corporation to clear-cut a rainforest than it is for a family of four to clear the weekend calendar.
Finally, families must have a "more the merrier" attitude. Sure, there was some quiet time. I saw several parents wrapped up in books under a shade tree, but that is the exception, not the rule.
Camping is a bit like a family reunion without the feud. It is a time to play and talk and eat, and not worry about details, deadlines and the day-to-day grind.
Because the camping group was so small, most of the kids had to hang out with others outside their normal circle. This was a good thing. It is important for kids to realize that the other kids in school, the ones they don't hang out with, are cool, too. This also was true for the parents.
While we all enjoy each other's company, the truth is we parents don't "hang out" either, but we did last weekend. Our backgrounds are diverse as are our professional activities. Still, under the noonday sun and the starlit evening, we enjoyed an intoxicating drink made of equal parts rest, relaxation and adult conversation.
I suspect that many of our kids grew closer this past weekend and I am sure that many of the parents did, too.
It may be true that the kids brought us near, but I suspect newfound friendship will keep us together.
Our kids may never be best buds, but they better get used to each other and learn to enjoy each other's company, because Mom and Dad have made some new friends.
Michael C. DeMattos is a member of the faculty at the University of Hawai'i School of Social Work. Born and raised on the Wai'anae Coast, he now lives in Kane'ohe with his wife, daughter, two dogs and two mice.