Our 9th most-read article of 2023.

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Originally published July 7, 2023.

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The two-hour drive on winding mountain roads is pleasant, since my twin preschoolers have only ever listened to hip indie music, so we never have to subject ourselves to a constant loop of “Baby Shark.” I whisper, “Good luck,” to the other families who are stopped along the side of the road so their kids can throw up from motion sickness. They must not know about ginger candy.

When we arrive at the campsite, my kids get to work constructing elaborate pinecone bird feeders while my husband and I put up the tent. Having two kids so they can keep each other entertained works just as well as people said it would. They always play together peacefully and never fight over toys or get into a screaming match over who gets the biggest stick they find.

Even at such a young age, my kids have an instinctive appreciation for the great outdoors. They don’t pelt each other with rocks or try to feed a chipmunk their organic homemade snacks that I always find the time to make. Instead, they sit quietly in their camping chairs, admiring the beautiful vistas and singing indie-inspired covers of campfire songs.

At dinnertime, they eat the stew we cook over the campfire even though it’s unfamiliar to them and features ingredients touching each other. Getting them to be adventurous eaters was just as simple as all the parenting message boards said it would be, and now they eat all the same food we do instead of asking why there are no waffle fries in the woods.

After dinner, the kids at the campground next to us are wrestling and trying to eat burnt marshmallows off the ground, while ours sit and munch on their carefully prepared smores. Because our twins listened intently to our safety talk about blades and flames, they diligently avoid the campfire and axe we brought instead of trying to recreate some preschool version of Lord of the Flies.

It rains a little, but that’s our chance to snuggle up together in the tent. I read a book while my kids quietly complete their Junior Ranger booklets. We introduced them to books at a young age, and that’s all it really takes to raise precocious readers and writers.

Even though it’s light in the summer between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., my kids happily get tucked into bed at 7:00 p.m. and drift off to sleep so my husband and I can spend some time talking by the fire. With all the sleep we’ve been getting for the past few years, of course, we want to stay up late.

That night we all sleep so deeply that we don’t even wake up to the sound of the family in the campground next to us pleading with their kids to just go to sleep already and then packing up their campsite at three in the morning to head home early.

As the sun rises in the morning, the thin layer of nylon protecting us from the sunlight and noises in the neighboring camps acts like a soundproof force field and lets my kids sleep in so late that we have to wake them up at 9:00 a.m. Young kids will sleep all day if you let them.

People at the neighboring campsites smile and nod at us and our well-behaved children as they fry bacon and eggs on their camping stoves. I can tell they are happy to see kids inhabiting the same public space they are in and that they think we are doing a good job as parents.

Packing up the campsite is a breeze because our kids help us. I get to sit at the picnic table for thirty minutes to eat pancakes and slowly sip an entire cup of coffee out of the mug I definitely remembered to bring. I serenely smile as I watch my four-year-old pack my sleeping bag into a stuff sack with an expertise I’ve never been able to manage.

When we get in the car to head home, well-rested and happy, I say, “We should definitely do that again.”

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Read an interview with author Julie Vick about writing this piece over on our Patreon page.