For my upcoming round birthday I got a very special present: A friend of mine wrote an article in which she describes the holidays we spent with our children at a campsite in the south of France this spring. Her description touched me deeply, made me smile and gave me an insight into how I appear from the outside – and I found myself in her description…

Chaotic, goal-oriented and structured — camping from the perspective of a friend

by | Aug 5, 2018 | Education, Family life

Chaotic, goal-oriented and structured. That was the answer when I asked my friend how she would describe Jeanne and her family. We spent a week together at the campsite in the South of France. My friend, Jeanne with her four kids and me with my three kids. But let me tell you this story from the beginning:

On a certain Sunday, after the church service – I still remember it well – we are, drinking coffee.
Jeanne is sitting at the table with her husband, two of her children are playing with other children, while the two little ones are sticking to them and drinking their Rivella (a Swiss national drink) through their straw. Up to that point I hadn’t talked to her much yet, but today I want to change that. So I go to sit with her and start the conversation.

So, what are your plans for the school break?

Jeanne answers;

“This will be the last time we’ve been here for the next four weeks. I’m taking the kids to France for some camping.”

“What? That long? And you’ll go by yourself with all four kids?”

I guess the amazement is written all over my face.

“Yes, I’ve done this before, never all by myself, but that will be fine. I‘ll
leave it open and take it day by day. My husband always has a lot of work in his business during this time. It’s easier for him and us if we go away. He usually takes time for the kids every day, so the office work often remains lying around. When we’re gone, he can work off some stuff.
Well, are you coming with us?”

Completely overwhelmed by this question I simply hand it over to my friend.

“Soooo..are we joining?“

“Sure!”

I’m having a thousand thoughts and don’t really know how serious our communication is at this time. So, for the moment, I’m waving off. My husband has no more holidays, I don’t have a tent and “Je ne parle pas français”!
But that didn’t seem to be a reason for Jeanne. She is so spontaneous and relaxed, the word “impossible” does not seem to exist in her vocabulary. My thoughts are spinning, I see a mountain of things I would need which I may not even have. But Jeanne has this capacity to swipe away my anxiety with her relaxed way of seeing things.

I admire her relaxed and uncomplicated manner, her spirit of adventure, but also her thoughts, which are more far-reaching than just “fun”. She describes such vacation as times which knit the family together. The children learn in everyday life, are confronted with language, people and new surroundings, which allows them to grow in their personal and social competence. She also describes how being at home screams for schedule, every day plans and if the kids aren’t at school, they are with friends. Family times are becoming rare.

Everything sounds so logical, the love of adventure tickles me. We say goodbye with
the words: “we’ll stay in touch”.
So here I am, thinking about it all day. For too long I had wished just that. To be able to go with someone who has camping experience, so that someone could introduce me to “camping holidays”.

So the result is, that, two weeks later we follow them to France.
After 10 hours of diverted driving, thanks to exciting “Leonie” audio plays, we reach
the Camargue via slight detours.

 

.It is wonderful! Blue sky,  Violet turquoise shimmering sea, flamingos and sea breeze in your nose! Simply beautiful!

Jeanne takes us to her tent. A large, brown, tubular tent with a large  sleeping compartment and everything practically furnished. We are astonished from her creative walk-in wardrobe, which she herself attached to the tent with tarpaulins.
I wonder how she set it up without her strong male help.

“My eldest was a great help,” she enthuses.
“Every child helps, depending on their abilities.”

(Consider that her kids are between two and seven years old.)
.
After setting up our own tent, furnishing, etc. we introduce our children to the
“Tent rules.”

  • Shoes stay outside,
  • don’t eat in the sleeping compartment,
  • etc.

My friend and I agree that tent rules are needed. We are wondering which rules apply to Jeanne’s family? We are sure that this is what it takes to get everything working, even more when you’re all alone with four children, we speculate.
At this moment, Jeanne’s oldest comes running into our tent. So, this is our moment to introduce him to our tent rules. A little surprised the boy looks at us.

“Oh, okay,” he says.

My friend and I look at him curiously,

“and, what are your rules?”
“We have no such rules” is his answer.
“What?”
“We really don’t.” He affirms.

We can hardly believe it. We trudge over to Jeanne, laughing. We want to hear that from her personally.
No rules, it’s true. We look at her in astonishment, she smiles. It may look a bit chaotic in her tent, but as it turns out later everything has its place and unlike me she always finds everything right away.

But back to the rules. Because I already got to know Jeanne, I know that she has to have definite thoughts and an intention behind it.

“It’s easy, rules need an inspector and, if they’re not followed, consequences. But I’m on holiday too,” she laughs, “What am I going to do, stand here and control everything? The little ones don’t really understand anyway.”

Seems to make sense somehow, but it’s still difficult for me to classify, as I am a tidy and clean person.  But let’s “wait and see” I’m saying to myself. 🙂

It is already late when I’m gathering my seven things together to prepare my first tent dinner for ten people on Jeanne’s cook tops. Again and again I reach my limits with my “zero-tent experiences”. Where do I pick up the water, how do I empty the hot water, where do I find…but with Jeanne at my side everything works out fine. I’m amazed at her inner peace. While she has to resolve an iPad conflict with her two older children, the smallest one doesn’t want to leave her side for one second, all the while she’s sitting at her laptop to work on her website to write something, not to forget my seven cook questions she has to answer.
That’s what I call stimulus overload, I guess for her it’s simply “multitasking”.

We did it! The first dinner is on the table. And everyone seems to like it. Exhausted, but grateful and full of joy we all go to sleep in our tent.

After a first relaxing, calm, only slightly cold night we are woken by birdsong.
(It is a real advantage to camp in spring: it is dark at 21 o’clock and around 7:30 daybreak is here and everyone gets enough sleep!)
A new day, new adventures! Beach, campground feelings with various Pools, evening animation, a castle tour and many hours of easy play, laugh, talk, cooking and getting to know each other.

My conclusion: Jeanne is a born adventurer.

She is full of ideas, energy and vision. The tranquility in person.

Here are a few anecdotes;

  • During the dinner, the little “guy of hers” sits like a big boy in his chair and eats spaghetti, shortly afterwards the entire content of his plate is on his trousers.
  • Unobserved, one sneaks into the sleeping cabin with his cacao, and as predictable — the
    gravity is at work and the cacao is on the mattress.

Why do I mention these “miseries”?Because I’m impressed by Jeanne’s calmness. My daily challenge as a mother and housewife is to not get an increase in heart rate in these situations, with corresponding outbursts.
Jeanne’s pulse rate seems to be stable even in these situations.

She encourages the independence and self-confidence of her children by letting them do something and give them credit for it. In doing so, she accepts the extra work if something goes wrong.

 

Now, as I’m sitting here, writing, I also think about her website “Family that matters”, where she weekly writes a new, profound, pedagogical article on a high-level. I’m amazed how she finds time to do that, in midst of the challenges as a full-time mommy, wife, housewife, friend and consultant. But not only that, she also translates these articles into three other languages.

Her enthusiasm for languages, her curiosity for knowledge, her interest in
the people and their well-being –  Jeanne is bursting with energy and vision. I’m thinking of the times she talked about how she dreams to attend further training courses to be able to help people in difficult situations even better.
She spares no effort. Also, knowing her a little better, I know now how precious marriage is to her, she raves about her husband, smiles at how totally different they are – she having such an adventurous spirit and he being the a typical “Swiss – settled” – guy.
How she emphasizes his talents and all the good things he did for her in their initial relationship difficulties.

Dear Jeanne, I would like to dedicate this article to you on your fortieth birthday.
I’m very fond of you. Your cheerful and positive way of being is something I find very remarkable! God has given you so many beautiful qualities. You have such a great family with vision. I wish that you will continue to be moved by Jesus, that you will continue like this to be passionate for him and the vision he has planted in your heart and to live it fully.
That you continue to be contagious with the love of God and all the good he’s put in you. May your dreams and visions become reality and may you continually be a blessing to many.
I am looking forward to another tent adventure with you!
Jeannine

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