We headed off to Rays to get a new waterproof jacket, and some camping pillows. I was taking my two sons on a camping trip with some friends I had known since high school.
It was going to be cold, bitterly cold, since we are in the middle of winter. Our destination can be harsh, but I’ve camped in the alpine snowline. I know you can be in a cold environment and in the middle of extraordinary scenic beauty, that is memorable and stays with you your whole life.
My sons have been through a torrid few years with school bullying. I want to lay down different memories, positive experiences that are an alternative pathway when they think about their school years. The literature says that experiences, and outdoor experiences in particular, have a profound impact on well-being, and I believe it.
And I am acting on my beliefs, a practice that leads to a more satisfying life.
It took a few hours to get there – it had been a big week and both the boys fell asleep in the back of the car. It was a very peaceful experience getting to the rendezvous point, and when we got there it quickly became extremely busy.
As you would know, there is a lot of things to do when you set up camp, even if you do as much camping as my best friend. But there is a rhythm to the actions, and a sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing everyone and everything come together, in creating a temporary haven for our little group.
Everyone contributed different food, and it smelt great as it sizzled on the barbecue. Spicy sausages, hot satay sauce and chicken skewers, tasty vegetables – we had it all. The boys were particularly thrilled when somebody brought out marshmallows. A final hot drink and we were done.
Kangaroos and wallabies, kookaburras and magpies, wombats and lizards. We saw them all. The air was sharp, and the campsite was full of noises, from people and animals. It was unforgettable – just what I had in mind.
In the morning we could see our breath as we talked and put together another tasty meal. We hiked up the hill and went through some beautiful caves that I had no idea were nearby. The boys teetered on rocks and took it in turns to borrow my camera and take artistic shots. Lots of laughter. Lots of memories.
One of my sons had had a bad experience at a school camp, and both boys have been highly reluctant to participate in school camping activities. I wanted to show them, in a safe way, surrounded by very safe adults, that camping can be beautiful and exhilarating, that being away from home can be stretching, exhausting, and completely worth it.
And I wanted the boys to experience a very masculine activity, surrounded by men, growing up as confident, outgoing, explorative males.
Bullying can be very damaging. Children and their parents can both be affected. As a man, I felt self-doubt and shame when I couldn’t stop the bullying of my sons, and they were badly hurt. Children can come out of bullying feeling much worse about themselves, diminished in their aspirations and in what they are prepared to do.
Outdoor activities such as camping can be an important counterbalance to these fears and doubts. As you use your strength to construct a temporary haven, as you dig, attach, hang and construct, you’re making emotional connections as well as physical. You’re connecting with the sense of what is possible when you’re not under attack.
You’re connecting with the sense of being a healthy growing male nurtured by powerful and kind mentors, parents and other men who know and like you.
The trip was everything that I had hoped for, and more. The boys immediately wanted to go again, and we will do it soon.
My older boy was talking to me a few days ago about building a computer. “I need to ring Gary he said, to talk about whether this model will be powerful enough to do what I want to do.” This is perfect, I thought. I had been following the pathway of Steve Biddulph, who writes powerfully about growing young men, and more recently, about helping girls develop differently. He sees a need for more rituals as children grow, and writes about the benefits of building connections between children and other adults in their family circle. Mentors who can be part of the circle of growth for children.
In deciding to reach out to my friend about whether his proposed computer was going to meet his needs, my son was showing that the camping trip had been powerful.
He’d had a positive camping experience. He had built his connection with my friends. He was continuing with his experiences in building. And he saw my friends as people he could reach out to.
We should never forget the power of the great outdoors, and our childhood friends, as sources of renewal and growth.
P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you stop school bullies:
1. Grab a free copy of my guide
It’s the roadmap to understanding and side-stepping the traps set by schools that prevent you keeping your child safe at school. — Click Here
2. Join our free webinar
Fast paced, free online “crash course’ training. Now you can escape endless waste of time school meetings, stop the bullying of your child, and get your life back. — Click Here
3. Join our Implementation Program and connect with parents who are also stopping the bullying of their child
We’re putting together a new implementation program – working personally with parents to stop the bullying of their child. If you’d like to work with us to get this problem fixed … — Click Here