Dating your husband is important right!? Well something I never realised until I had children, is how important it is to date them too – just one on one! Since we’ve added to our family, it has always been my intention to make time for each child on their own, but it’s so hard to find time to do it all! Just as we know the value of continuing to date our spouse, the need to set aside regular time for one on one moments with your offspring is just as important. And after a challenging few months with my eldest, butting heads regularly of late, I booked us in to attend the Mother & Daughter Camp at Narrow’s Park Christian Camp this past weekend.
She’s my first born, my pride and joy, the delicious little lady that made me a Mama, the child that taught me what unconditional parental love was, the one who made me appreciate my parents in so many different ways, the girl that made my heart go all aflutter with giddy delight every time I looked at her, picked her up, heard her babble, saw her smile. But she’s also the one that makes me sometimes feel crazy on this parenting journey, the one who pushes all my buttons, the one who challenges me regularly and the one in whom I see so much of my frustrating and imperfect self – it’s a little like looking into a mirror and sometimes I can’t deal with that. My husband thinks it’s kinda funny because now I know what it’s like to argue with me. Oooops!
This weekend getaway was going to be the perfect time out for the two of us, alone, without little brothers, without sports demanding our Saturday morning, without me needing to prep dinner and do washing and finish this or that or any other possible distraction that exists when you’re a Mama to three and wife to one and so the list goes on.
A friend I’ve known since I was around 14, and her husband, run the Narrow’s Park Christian Camp just outside of Hamilton and the kids and I have been down to stay with them a few times when my husband has been overseas with refereeing. We love the wide open spaces and the animals everywhere. We enjoy the feeling of being back to nature and the slower pace of life. The setting is picturesque and one can never get enough fresh air. Taking Tahlia back for an organised camp was something I’d always wanted to do and this weekend was our first opportunity to attend. Although we are not a Christian family and my husband was a little mindful of what the camp would entail, I was raised in a Christian home for half of my childhood so I completely didn’t have an issue with the fact that the camp was held at a Christian facility and would have Godly overtones. For me the focus was on the chance to spend quality uninterrupted time with my daughter and do something together, just the two of us.
I expected a fun weekend with my girl, but I got that and soooo much more.
We arrived on a rainy Friday evening just in time for dinner. We were shown to our dorm room, unpacked our bags, set up our beds and headed to the dining hall for food. I was expecting standard fare but instead was greeted by a deliciously mouth-wateringly tender lamb shank with creamy mashed potatoes & green beans, followed by Flake Cheesecake – a portion so large even I couldn’t finish it. After a wonderful meal and meeting a few new faces around the tables we donned our gumboots and headed down to the fire pit for the evening session entitled “Glamping in the Moonlight”. As we rounded the back of the dining hall, we saw the most magical setting before us. Bunting strung between trees, a fire roaring, tall tall trees uplit in pretty colours, and a Carnival set up of little tents in a surround each housing activities or chill out zones – there was a Jamberry nail tent, a Coffee machine, a lounge undercover, a gigantic swing in a tree, bean-bag throw challenge, marshmallow roasting and a three piece band playing everything from Ben Harper’s Steal My Kisses to Country Road Take Me Home. We got our nails did, we swung in the tree, we played the bean bag challenge, we roasted marshmallows, we drank hot chocolate, we laxed in the outdoor lounge, we danced, we sang and we had a blast. There were fire works and there was this incredible Cheese Board.
We both hit the sack at 10.30pm and slept like little logs.
At 7.15am the following morning we leapt out of bed, got into work out gear and headed to the dining hall for Dance Aerobics. I had hoped it would be a fairly subdued session given the late night for the kids and the whole “relaxing weekend” vibe I was going for… but no, it was a full on workout with an energetic and amazing instructor. I almost passed out.
Breakfast was another feast of magnificent proportions: muesli, rice bubbles, cornflakes, yoghurt, peaches, poached eggs, bacon, salmon, spinach, hollandaise sauce and Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal. No, I didn’t eat one of everything but Yes, I was super full.
We split into groups for our morning session – girls ages 7 and under, 8-12 and 12+ and Mums all went separate ways for two hours. I listened to an incredibly warm, effervescent and inspirational mother of six talk about How To Create a Warm and Loving Home. It was perfect and it was inspiring.
Following this session we were reunited with our daughters and enjoyed morning tea (but again, too full to eat) so missed out on gigantic Chocolate Chip Cookies and Carrot & Pineapple Cake. Then it was off to play an outdoor game called Predator Prey – SO MUCH FUN! Too long to explain but super energetic, super adrenaline rush, so much fun!
Lunch was Char Siu Pork, fried rice and Asian Slaw. Yum!
After lunch we were able to explore all the outdoor pursuits that the camp had to offer. We did Archery, rode Go-Karts, walked through horse paddocks, swung again on the big tree and turned down the mammoth water slide and swimming pool just because although it was a magically warm afternoon for May, it was still a little nippy for wearing togs.
Afternoon tea, let’s not forget was sushi and mini pies, and a big old fruit bowl. Have I mentioned – so much food?!
The late afternoon saw us split again into groups but this time Tahlia went with the 8-12’s because the earlier session for 7 and under’s was apparently too babyish for her. She felt more at home discussing Goals and Dreams than playing with Playdoh. No surprises there!
The Mum’s afternoon session covered off Creating Meaningful Family Traditions. I’m a big fan of this kind of thing anyway, but it was so nice to hear other people’s suggestions for how to achieve and create moments of magic for your family and I learnt things that I’ll definitely be implementing into my family over time.
We had an hour to get into our Great Granny Get Down get ups and that time was spent busily prepping for the evening ahead. Bustling for mirror space in the tiny ablution blocks, excitedly watching to see what our dorm-mates were wearing and ensuring every last curler was secure before meeting back at the dining hall again for our dinner and dance.
The set up was amazing – floral or gingham table cloths, each setting marked with a Bingo card and teeth lollies. Bingo counters and jars of smokers lollies as well as teeth lollies in cups of water reminiscent of dentures lined the trestle tables that filled the room. Bunting hung from the ceiling, a photo booth set up in the corner and lounge furniture at the end of the room created a granny vibe living area that all us “oldies” felt immediately at home in.
Dinner was a choice of Tomato Soup or Seafood Chowder, followed by Chicken Roulade, roasted kumara, beetroot salad and broccoli.
We were treated to an Aria by a very talented Opera singer, we danced the Cha-Cha Slide and took photos all night long. My little lady seemed to be channeling her great grandmother all night. Her great grandmother, my Nonni, who is 97 and has dementia, calls everyone “doll” and asks the same thing over and over. Yes, Tahlia mimicked her perfectly. We danced the night away, and it was such a fun way to spend the evening with my favourite little girl. Once supper was served, we rounded the night off suitably granny-like with a game of Bingo. Classic!
Another super late bedtime though and when I awoke the following morning at 7.40am I was unashamedly excited to hear the Dance Aerobics music already pumping from the hall meaning I’d missed it for today!
Breakfast on Sunday was French Toast with Maple Syrup & Cream as well as all the cereal, yoghurt and fruit options from the day before. We had a lovely session with another inspiring woman – this time a mother of three boys, not suitable for a Mother Daughter Camp you may say, but boy did her stories have me in tears, she shared snippets of magic that made me really think about how I am parenting my kids: daughter and sons – encouraging, with tips and tricks on what worked for her now adult children and the ever important message to “not sweat the small stuff”.
The whole weekend was uplifting and encouraging. It wasn’t overly churchy and for a non-church-attending person like myself I felt completely comfortable in this environment. Grace was said before each meal and the speakers referenced their faith as they spoke, but it was not preachy and it there was no judgement. Everyone was there because they valued their relationship with their daughter and wanted to spend time together. One on one.
It’s not to say that since being back all our butting heads and challenging moments have been dissolved, alas I didn’t learn a magic trick for how to best deal with confrontation, but my daughter and I made memories together, just her and I. And to surprise her after school today, I just returned from Warehouse Stationery where I had all our pictures together printed out for her to treasure.
Because treasure them she will. Just as I treasure her. We are going to make this our annual thing – our special weekend away each year to look forward to. I’m already hanging out for the next one, though I’m back on track with eating right this week after taking a conscious break to enjoy the experience to it’s full potential!
If anyone is interested in more details, you can check out the Narrows Park website here.
I kept my phone out of reach for the most part which is why there aren’t many pics and I didn’t take my Canon so these are low-quality iPhone photos.