My family and I just returned from a camping holiday on the spectacular Western Australian coast. We spent 10 days driving in a camper van up to Coral Bay from Perth, which is about a 13 hour drive. We stopped at various caravan parks on the way to and from Coral Bay, and once there we stayed a few nights in a lodge situated in a caravan park.
For those who haven’t travelled in this way, most of these caravan parks have a giant bouncy pillow and some playground equipment. They tend to be very child friendly places. Kids of all ages can be seen riding bikes and scooters all over the park. Or they’re running around barefoot, making friends and generally having the time of their lives.
But the drive was looooong.
Needless to say we did a whole lot of driving with two small, bored boys in tow. Some of the drives were in excess of seven hours. This is an eternity to a little boy. Whenever we arrived at our destination they would fizz out of the camper van and then race around the camp-site like two lit fireworks.
Now let me say here first…I have never, ever left my children to play without adult supervision. My eldest is seven years old and my youngest is three. There has always, always been a responsible adult watching them. But they were so excited to be out of the car, and my husband and I had so much to get sorted out in terms of setting up dinner and beds before sunset that we agreed they could go off to the playground. Out of our sight. We gave our seven-year-old strict instructions to stay with and watch his younger brother. We made sure that if the little one wanted to come back the elder had to bring him, and could then return to the playground alone.
I still can’t quite believe I allowed it, in a place where all manner of terrible accidents could have befallen them. They could have been led away, fallen off equipment, been run over. They could have been hurt by other, bigger, fiercer children. I had terrible visions of them becoming lost and wandering through a big unfamiliar caravan park, full of enormous vehicles and strangers, searching for their Mummy.
But none of that happened.
They took on the responsibility to look after themselves like champions.
Our eldest son took his responsibility seriously. He watched his brother and defended him in the scraps they got into with other children. He brought him back whenever his brother wanted, carefully watching out for cars. The little one, who is a law unto himself, listened when he was told the rules that bound this new freedom, and obeyed them to the letter.