A Camp-less Youth. A Letter to my Dad

Dear Dad,

You did an amazing job raising me. I am a husband, father and am almost debt-free. Congrats!

But — you knew there would be a “but” — I do have one bone to pick with your job as a father. No, it’s not about the time you wanted me to cut my spiked hair and stop hanging out with those “skate rats” who did all that breakdancing. My complaint is about one of those seminal father-son moments that we missed out on — taking a camping trip.

I’m not talking about a Bear Grylls-style, Man vs. Wild type journey into the wilderness ripped from the pages of some turn-of-the-century American novel. I’m not even talking about going where there isn’t running water. I’m talking about a tent, two backpacks, a small grill and a men’s room a short distance away. I know why we didn’t do it. You filled my days with schoolwork, sports, theater and a part-time job. You kept me busy and involved with outlets for my creative and athletic desires. Just thinking of how you and mom navigated my after-school schedules makes me wonder why you weren’t a city planner.

But the bottom line is, I would totally suck on “Survivor.”

Dad, the first time I slept in a tent was in my mid-30’s in the middle of a campground in a Manchester, Tennessee field at the music festival, Bonnaroo. It was a fascinating moment — sleeping outdoors surrounded by tweens, teens, hippies, wanna-be hippies, frustrated hippies and future hippies. Waking up on the lumpy ground with sunshine beating on the tent and dew on the grass near my nose, I felt free and I instantly grasped the love of nature and the outdoors that others speak about with reverence. Dad, I wish we had shared that together.

Please don’t misunderstand, Dad. Our memories are awesome. We spent countless hours playing sports, going to ballgames, traveling, sharing ideas and performing in shows. In fact, in our house “camp” was a word used to describe a specfic style of comedy. No matter, I wouldn’t trade a moment of our relationship. I would only like to add the thrill of pitching a tent, grilling meat, throwing back a cold one and doing some hiking/fishing/canoeing with my old man.

Being a near-virgin camper has taught me something, though. It will be a priority for my family. I doubt if we’ll make our maiden trip on the Appalachian Trail but I want my boys to experience at an early age the joy and confidence of waking up outside with the birds, the excitement of unzipping their tent and feeling the early-morning sun streaming onto their faces. In fact, we’ve got the tent, sleeping bags and a lantern in the garage. We’re set to go.

I’ve only been a father for 3 years but I’ve learned that I feel a strong urge to do the things that I always wanted to do as a child and never did. Dad, you filled my days with activity, knowledge and lessons that shaped me into the successful man I am today. When we finally take these kids out into the wilderness, we’ve got a sleeping bag with your name on it.

Your Loving Son



The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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  1. Brad the Dad says:

    This one really hit me. It made me appreciate and reflect upon the camping trip I take every year with my family and how I need to make sure I never take it for granted. While I love the perspective you gave us of growing up camp-less, the writing in this piece stole the show for me. Perfectly constructed from top to bottom. Sometimes writing seems like art to me, and this is one of those time. Great job.

    • Brad said it so well. My family was so poor we couldn’t afford hotels, so when we traveled we’d either just sleep in the car or pitch a tent wherever we could. I swore I’d never sleep in a tent again. Then I became a dad…

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