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Tent Talks – another type of talk that inspires

August 11, 2013

Algonquin '13 001

I just got back from a few nights in Algonquin Provincial Park. This has been a spiritual quest of sorts for me for over 20 years however last year I felt some of my daughters were old enough to enjoy (and help paddle/portage) the interior of the park as well. For those unaware, the interior of Algonquin that we were visiting is only accessible by canoe or kayak. There is no phone, no cell coverage, no one else nearby at all. It takes a little work, but it is a grand way to unplug the family for a few days.

Last year I brought my 2 11-year-old girls with me and this year as well as the two of them, (now 12) I also thought it was time to introduce my 7-year-old to the wonders of the interior canoe camping as well. We traveled about five hours from the car in my small yet oh so dependable fiberglass canoe. We battled winds on Smoke Lake, portages and more and found a grand campsite with plenty of sandy beach, granite outcroppings to jump off of into the water and flat space for our tents.

We spent two nights in the same camp spot and I was surprised, (though should not have been) at how the three girls kept themselves busy. I allowed them to set the agenda and was oh so proud of them for being spontaneous and creative.

At home, like most families, I tend to hear, “Can I change the channel?”, “Can I go on the iPad”, and other lines repeated like mantras to children who seem to be unable to do any one thing for more than a few minutes. But in the middle of the park without the “connected options” I think they quickly adapted and became connected to the natural world around them.

Almost immediately after getting our tents set up the kids were playing tic tac toe in the sand. I taught them to skip rocks for over an hour (my 7-year-old is a natural!) and they learned the sheer joy of jumping off a large rock into a crystal clear lake. They wrote reflections in little $2 notebooks I picked up on a whim just before entering and they happily shared what they were writing with each other. My 7-year-old needed some help with her writing and spelling and I was happy to help. As the two of us sat on a large piece of granite overlooking the lake – she noticed how the hills, the clouds, the sky and were mirrored on the water and she pointed that out and said, “Look how happy we look Dad.”

The entire time we were in the park I did not hear, “I’m bored” and I found that to be such a thrill.

In the evenings, once the campfire was out and we were getting ready for bed I pulled all three girls into the one tent and we talked about the day that passed before the older girls went over to their own tent. We chatted about life, we chatted about dreams and I was sure that half of what we discussed Dad likely would not have been privy to if we tried to have the same conversations at home. I think the laughter, funny stories, and the wishes, crushes and hopes of my pre-teen girls were only shared with me because we were under canvas so to speak.

Algonquin '13 003

Just as I’ve always been a proponent of the fact that restorative justice works best around a campfire or while walking down the trail side by side, I believe wholeheartedly that parents can learn so much about their kids if they can just disconnect to connect.  I trust that the memories of this trip will stick with them and cross my fingers in hope that I will be both healthy enough and a “cool Dad”  long enough to enjoy a paddling journey with my girls for years to come.

Our tent talks inspired me and I have no doubt – my girls.

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