living local · motherhood · summer

In Which We Camp at Don Carter State Park


I am clearly a crazy person. Do not confuse what I am about to tell you with the idea that I’m a great mom or a fun mom or a brave mom.

I am none of those things.

I am a crazy mom who gets wild ideas and then with the same incorrigible stubborness I despise in my 8 year old, I continue to pursue said crazy ideas even when the odds are stacked against me.

Oh, and then I whine about how the odds are stacked against me and I just can’t ever seem to catch a break.

Sheesh. I am a crazy person.

I took my kids camping last week. Yes, all of them. Yes, tent camping. Yes, it was raining the day we set out. Yes, we had to hike in to our site.

Yes, crazy person.

But they were so excited. And so helpful. And so thrilled to be camping and swimming in the lake. By the way, it’s perfectly acceptable to be wet while swimming, but getting wet because rain is pouring down while your crazy mother tries to set up the broken canopy is not acceptable and results in massive screaming.

Just so you know.

We had decided to check out Georgia’s newest state park, Don Carter on the shores of Lake Lanier. It’s only about 25 miles from home and has a great beach area the kids are in love with. And the most awesome playground, ever. However, it also has a truly primitive campground. They were in love with that too.

Twelve sites are nestled back in the woods and along the lake shore. They’re fairly separated from one another, so you definitely don’t feel like you’re camping on top of someone else, but the trade off? All sites require a walk in. Some more so than others. Last weekend when we scoped it out, they picked out one of the farthest sites from the parking lot. It was about 100 yards down a paved trail and another hundred or so yards up a trail through the woods.

“But, Mommy, we won’t wake up anybody else when we get up early!”

Well, there’s that for a positive.

Really, it was a great site. My only complaint is not actually the walk in, but the lack of a picnic table in the primitive sites. I for sure wasn’t carrying one of those up that trail. Our two-room twelve-person tent was enough of a load, thank you very much.

So we walked it all in. I had repacked all the gear to make it as easy as possible, planned meals around minimalist needs and cooking (Pop-tarts for the first time in months!), and steeled myself for the potential complaining when they realized just how much work this really is.

But I didn’t prepare myself adequately for ME.

You know this happens to us all the time as mothers. We plan and pack and prep for everyone else. We overlook ourselves. We forget to account for our own capacity and abilities and instead fall into the belief our kids have about us: we think we can do it all by ourselves.

Crazy person.

I can’t do anything by myself. And the last lesson I want my kids to learn is that I can. Instead, I want them to learn that the only reason mommy can do anything is because the first place I go in the morning is my knees and the second place I go is their daddy.

Problem is, sometimes I skip those two places and go straight to the throne of myself. That’s when I fall apart. Because the pressure I put on myself is infinitely greater than the expectations my Father God or my precious husband have for me.

On our first day out, I prayed and had a Bible study with my kids before we left. We talked about the verse I had studied that morning.

12 Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].–Colossians 3:12 (AMP) 

So, Thursday was a good day despite the rain that came down and the canopy that didn’t come up and the flood that soaked all our clothes.  Thursday I had called on power outside myself to endure whatever came so that my kids would not have a crazy mama. We had all agreed to work on being patient with one another no matter what.

But apparently, I forgot all that by Friday morning when I was getting all worked up over a visit from my sister and the idea that Joshua would come in that afternoon and what if they thought I’d done everything wrong? There was dirt in the tent, no table, and Gus’s kneecaps couldn’t be found under all the scrapes and bruises. Not to mention Amelia wore the same clothes for two days because hers were still wet despite a visit to the the dryer in the posh RV campground.

I forgot, again, that not everything is always all about me. And not everything I do has to be filtered through the screen of what everyone else might think.

Expectations are not absolutes. Life is so often a series of expectations that are unrealistic and unachievable, yet we crush ourselves under the weight of failure when nothing seems to go according to plan. All week people have been asking me if our trip was fun, if it was worth it, if we had a good time. I tend to say it would be more worth it had it been longer, had I been more patient, had it not rained.

But my kids? Just like that time we hiked Tallulah Gorge, they figured it was worth it all along. You know why? They’re expectations were simple: we camp and we swim. Only mine were outlandish.

We camp. We are happy the whole time. No one fights. We sing in the rain. We do everything right so no one can find fault or say they’d have done it differently.

You know what? I’d be really crazy not to like the expectations they have of me a lot better than the ones I have of myself.

Yes, I’ll do it again sometime. But this time? I’ll raise my hands in praise and lower my voice of expectation.

Don Carter really is a great place for families to camp, hike, swim, and play. Check it and other wonderful state parks out here.

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