Father and Child Camping

By asingaporeanson

The rules:

- No mothers. Only fathers will participate with their children during the camp out.

- No mobile phones or other electronic devices. The key is to spend quality communication with each other.

- For kids of 5-12 years of age. Somehow, the organisers were willing to let us participate despite Albany wasn't 5 years old yet.

- Fees of $75. Meals are provided. We managed to get free tickets. Thank you. I appreciate that kind gesture to accommodate a pissed poor parent.

On the eve of the event, I felt nervy about the whole thing. We had never take Albany camping before. It was forecasted that night would be a stormy one, with high speed winds throughout. How she would react spending a night outdoors with howling winds and rain pelting down on the canvass just a metre above our faces?What if she chicken out in the middle of the night, ask for mummy or any excuses she can think of just to get home to her warm, familiar bed?

All I had to remind myself was how I scorn Singapore parents when they express concerns about their kids adjusting to Australian life. "Worry about yourselves first," I would go. As far as this is being concerned, there is nothing far from truth. I have never met a single Singaporean child who is unable to cope with the weather, environment, school life and mixing with kids of different skin colour. It is homogeneously consistent be it with the young kids or teenagers, through the conversations whenever I have the privilege of having one with any young Singaporean. Till date, I have never gotten a 'meh' response in regards to their new life here. The parents, however. You cannot imagine the lame shit they can come out with. With that gentle reminder, I knew it was a go. I have faith in my belief that children of this generation are spunky as compared to their lame shit parents. I have faith in the relationship I have put in with Albany. I love her to bits. It would be only one night. That was nothing. If I couldn't even do that, I might as well move back to Singapore and hire a Marilyn.

Dads and their kids started streaming into the field by 3pm. The atmosphere was a little awkward. Besides exchanging some formalities, the fathers didn't talk to one another. That wasn't too surprising, really. Most of the children helped their dads set up their tents. Though Albany was keen, I could tell she was totally clueless about what she could help with. The strong wind was already starting and restarted my pitching twice. In the end I had to place our bags and got Albany to sit at corners I needed weight on while I pinned down the base. When the tent was finally up, Albany was delighted and started to sing and dance inside. I made a quick scan outside, there wasn't many 4 years old children like Albany. There were probably one or two more.

The organisers had 4 events planned for us. They weren't anything compulsory but most of the attendees joined in. Activity 1 was kite making with the kids. Then going back out to the field to fly them. Albany loved it. Activity 2 was paper plane making. After making one, we were encouraged to go to the top level of the stands to throw the plane. The paper provided was a little too thin and the wind was too strong. None of the planes flew really well. Activity 3 was footy. After a warm up sprint, Albany came back to me asking for the toilet. Ha, so it began. Since it was a stadium, there were toilets all around the oval, as I found out after taking Albany for about 5 times through the event, including one at night and one at dawn. We went to the last activity in the holding area, where we were dads and kids were taught to meditate.

Dinner was fine, though Albany was more interested in eating the food Jen packed for us. So we compromised and did both. By then, the sun was setting. It was time to have the one-on-one session with our kids. I wondered how many dads attempted the conversation suggestions given to us at registration. I did. I wanted to do it seriously because I was there to discover more about myself, as a parent. In a tent alone with just your child, it felt like, perhaps, in the confession room. There was nothing left to do but to talk. To be honest, that didn't deviate much from our daily bedroom routine. We talk often during bedtime, since Albany and I are still room mates at home. The prompted questions were designed with a clear purpose, for both child and father to say things that were normally left unsaid. It was almost like the annual appraisal at work. I told Albany about her stronger qualities and asked her what she like and didn't like about what I do. There was also promises made for future activities together, which I fully intend to fulfill.

As the theory goes, the child did adjust much better than the parent. Albany slept soundly later on. I was the one trying to find better angles throughout and woke up twice when the wind was so strong that it slammed the tent onto my face. It felt like some kid ran and dived right into our tent from the outside. Nah, not at 3am in the morning. I went outside to inspect the tent the first time it happened, as I thought the tent had collapsed to the wind attacks. To my surprise, it was still pegged down firmly and none of the rope snapped. The tent went back to its original shape during the hiatus. "Good tent," I thought to myself.

By morning, Albany woke to her usual chirpy self, totally oblivious to the rougher night we don't usually experience. We went into a mini dispute when she went off playing rather than helping to pack things up. It wasn't that I wanted to be an asshole and deprive the little one of some fun. It wasn't that she could really offer much help anyway, in terms of tent packing. It was about instilling a sense of responsibility in her - something that was non existent in myself long until I entered adulthood. On reflection, it was detrimental to my life as a whole. I didn't want that to cripple her the same way. Although she was just four years old, Jen had taught her well. She could help out in a lot of house chores, such as cleaning, weeding, cooking preparation and even making coffee (3-in-1 types) for guests all by herself. Though I never fail to cringe throughout her coffee making processes, all done on a stool, she was a meticulous and always pull it off without a hitch.

The camp out allowed me time to realise my daughter has grown up a lot since tugging along with us through the unstable first years, moving from house to house on the average of once a year. She has opinions, preferences and will not hesitate to express them. I am happy with the way she is turning out. I have to push myself to finish as much work as I can around the house before Summer comes. I slacked off too much during Winter. By the time Summer comes, Albany will turn 5. I need all the time I can muster to focus on her.

This post was first published over at the blog of asingaporeanson on 17 November 2016. It is reproduced with permission.


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