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Parental Indiscretion

Nature Channel


Illustration by Kristina Micotti

Rachel Laing​

Something happened recently that I’ve been waiting all motherhood for: My daughter Georgia asked me to take her camping. I rejoiced. Finally, one of my kids wanted to spend a weekend away from the trappings of civilization! 

My husband made it clear he wasn’t interested. “I work very hard so I can afford not to sleep on the ground with bugs,” he said. 

Our son agreed. “You know there’s no TV or Internet in the mountains?” he asked with signature big-brother disdain.

But Georgia was undeterred, so I booked a campsite in Mount Laguna. I got a tent and hiking essentials: a backpack with a 2-liter bladder for water, a compass-whistle-thermometer combo, and a first-aid kit. Along with my homemade granola and s’mores fixings, we were ready for a weekend in the great outdoors. 

We arrived Friday evening and rushed to set up before dark. Despite my lack of camp-setup experience—I’ve always been more of a “charming guest” type—everything was going great. We made dinner over a fire, ate s’mores, and fell asleep to the sound of crickets.

The next morning, I urged Georgia to eat up at breakfast before hitting the trails. I wasn’t sure she could do a serious hike, but I packed for a major expedition. Less than an eighth of a mile into our hike, Georgia was over it. “I hate walking,” she complained. “I’m tired. When is this going to be over?”

“Come on!” I said in my chipper mom voice. “This is going to be great! Look, squirrels!” 

This went on for a few more minutes before it became clear I was not going to need my compass, my rescue whistle, or my rattlesnake-bite suction cup for what amounted to a campground stroll. And I hadn’t planned an alternative activity. I mean, what else is there to do when you go camping besides hike?

We returned to the campsite, where Georgia pulled out her phone to gather more footage for the film she was making. She’d been recording everything around her since we left San Diego, while I kept insisting she put down the phone and experience the wilderness in person, not through a screen.

I sat on a log and fumed. “When I was a kid in the mountains, you’d have to go into town to find a pay phone—which you wouldn’t do, because WHY WOULD YOU BE ON THE PHONE WHEN YOU WERE IN THE MOUNTAINS?”

Then it dawned on me: Here my daughter was, having a great time making a movie about her first camping trip, and I was irritated because it wasn’t the way I had experienced camping. 

I didn’t need to manage Georgia’s experience of being in the wilderness; she was doing just fine funneling it through her own system. And frankly, she never works harder than when she’s filming and editing her projects. Why would I discourage this passion?

I gave in and let her shoot me building a fire and making s’mores. In the end, it was a really great time. And I have a movie to prove it.

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