New dad Luke Edwards is braving the wilds of Dorset with his two-month-old baby, a dog, a tent and the world’s smallest sleeping bag.
You can learn a lot about yourself when you head out to sleep in the wilds of nature. That said, I didn’t expect much to reveal itself to me on our first-ever family camping trip. After all, how wild can a short holiday with my wife, two-month-old daughter and two-year-old dog get? Turns out, emotionally speaking, very.
The plan was to head down to Dorset for two nights, camping on a dairy farm close to the beach. All very relaxing, right? We were warned it was very early to be taking the little one away, but I love an adventure and had already ordered the baby sleeping bag. Something that cute needs to be used.
However, this trip made me grow up more as a man and a father than any event since my daughter was born.
There will be no trips to the pub
We headed off, car overflowing with baby kit and camping clobber – most of which was destined never to be used. Traffic? Of course there was traffic. But that combined with a poonami from little miss in the back meant lots of stops and even a roadside nappy change. We arrived shattered, but the tent still needed to be set up. I got through it all with the thought of enjoying a nice, well-earned pint in the local pub that overlooks the sea. It was never to be.
Despite knowing the area, having trained the dog well enough to go out to pubs and the baby behaving well, we were never to get to that promised watering hole, or even visit a restaurant. I arrived, like on any pre-baby holiday, expecting to live it up like we used to. I left realising, for the first time since Ivy’s birth, my post-baby life really is different now. But that’s not a bad thing, it's just the process of getting to that realisation that can hurt.
The new family-style holiday just meant shifting life’s expectations. Instead of a pub dinner with a view, we grabbed fish and chips to eat at the campsite. Instead of walking down to a hidden sandy cove we went to a busy beach so the car, loaded with baby ‘essentials’, was nearby. Instead of popping out in the evening I found myself sat outside the tent, wife and baby asleep by 9pm, with my headtorch on, reading a book and enjoying a plastic cupful of red wine (which, I discovered in daylight, had dripped all over me). As I woke at 2am with the apparently broken air bed deflating, I couldn’t help feeling it was quite apt, as I too felt drained.
"I arrived, like on any pre-baby holiday, expecting to live it up like we used to. I left realising, for the first time since Ivy’s birth, my post-baby life really is different now."
It’s different, but good different
But family life doesn’t take away without giving back. The baby slept through the night and the dog behaved perfectly. Despite the uncomfortable sleep the fresh air left me feeling energised in the morning. Even the weather was in sync – one minute throwing down rain, the next minute we were bathed in hope-filled rays of sunshine.
On day two the dog got her first swim in the sea, which I joined her for, in a half-hour window of relatively clement weather before the heavens opened and we ran for cover in our nearby car. Minus the baby, I would have happily stayed in the rain, swimming and throwing the ball for the bounding dog. Instead I sat in the car and read. The feeling wasn’t quite disappointment but more a sense of change and growth. Rather than being buffeted about by the waves of the sea I was now being pulled along the path laid down by the needs of my little one.
I’d like to say I was carried away with a selfless feeling of purpose, but in all honesty I was a little disappointed my holiday hadn't lived up to my expectations. Then, just a few minutes later, I was staring into my daughter’s smiling face and I struggled to remember what it was I’d wanted more than this in the first place.
Luke Edwards is a writer who specialises in technology, he’s looking forward to buying his new daughter lots of gadgets.