The first year my husband came to my annual family camping trip I remember him being a little disappointed in the whole experience. He didn’t have a bad time, it just did not live up to the expectations I had set by my inability to stop raving about it for months beforehand. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t understand the awesomeness!
That’s when I realized something. If you look at each year’s camping trip by itself, there is really nothing that special, awesome or “super fun” about it. Some people might even call it dull. The scenery is not that pretty, the fishing is not that good, we don’t have a boat and there are yellow jackets galore. The list of less than ideal circumstances goes on and on.
But here’s the thing: my family has gone camping at the same spot, each summer, for 40 years. That’s right, 40 years. This family tradition began before I was even born. What started with a large family of nine squished into one tent has now turned into a huge family of 90 occupying a tent city. Each year’s camping experience is a compilation of memories from past years. That’s why it’s so awesome and why nobody really “gets” it their first year–or even their second, third, or fourth.
Every once in a while, we talk about changing the venue for our family camping trip to somewhere “nicer,” but that discussion never lasts very long. We’ve made too many family memories at that mediocre campground. I don’t want to pass those memories onto my children in words. I want them to experience it and be part of it. I want them to know it for themselves.
There is something comforting, beautiful and totally amazing about seeing my children play in the same dirt, walk on the same trails and interact with the family the same way I did when I was their age. These sh
ared experiences help bind us together as a family and as an extended family. I think that is the essence of tradition.
From our annual family campout, I’ve learned a few things about family traditions:
- Traditions don’t happen without hard work and sacrifice by family members.
- It’s really hard to see the true value of a tradition when it’s still in its early years, but all the effort pays off a hundred fold down the road.
- The most important part of a family tradition is the continuity of spending time together. The where, when and how a family tradition starts is less important.
If you can’t relate to a long-weekend of camping with your extended family—because you would rather get a root canal than deal with sharing bathrooms, food, and chores in the dirt—then focus on beginning some special family traditions with your immediate family. Because who knows, maybe 40 years down the road, you might still like to hang out together. It could happen!
What family traditions does your family share together? Share in the comments below.
Before Carrie Lundell was a mountain biking, minivan driving, wardrobe refashioning, public school advocating, church going, race running mother of four living in the OC, she designed children’s clothes in NYC for a little company that rhymes with Cold Gravy.