Into the Wild: How I Pulled Off a Month Unplugged with Kids (and why!)

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So, here’s how it went down:  The kids were newborns, then infants, then toddlers. They were a ton of work, and honestly not very good companions. Demanding, cranky, drooly, and kind of lacking in the conversation department. So I did what we all do – I sought out the company of friends with kids to pass the time with. The kids would play (or cry, or sleep), and we’d talk, laugh, day-drink. It was delightful. They had friends, I had friends, we didn’t have to spend every waking second with one another . . . win win.

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. . . . and then the kids basically grew up.

All of a sudden, they were 5 and 3.5, and actually really amazing. And capable. And adventurous. And fun. SO FUN! And pretty darn great to have conversations with.

For years I had been so engrossed in our daily routines and getting from morning to bedtime that I hadn’t noticed.

When did my son learn all the words to Mr. Big’s “To Be With You,” and learn to tie a knot? And my daughter – when did she start preferring Chacos over glittery jellies, and getting dressed before even coming out of her room to say good morning? 

All of a sudden I was having flash-forwards to them being teenagers and being too BUSY spend time with me anymore. Cats in the Cradle, right? Now. Granted. You who know me know that I can get a little dramatic, so you can take that last part with a grain of salt.

But. Doesn’t it fly by so fast?

How many summers will you get, when your children want nothing more than to be with you?

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Once I got that in my head, I couldn’t unstick it.

And then there’s the issue of summer camp.

My daughter’s of school age now, and damn, summer camp in Austin is pricey. I figured out that with some strategic location scouting  and some careful AirBnB-ing, we could find ourselves away in the mountains for a full month, with rental costs just marginally higher than camp for one child would’ve been. FOR REAL.

Plus: summer camp is cool and all, but is it as cool as an open-ended, month-long frolic in the mountains? I was betting on NO.

austin lifestyle photographer - documentary family photography

Oh yeah, and my job. In case you didn’t know, Day-in-the-Life photography doesn’t exactly bring in the big bucks. But the beauty of working for yourself, is you get as much [unpaid] leave as you want! I figured I could take the month off, squeeze in some extra clients on either end, and pretty much almost call it even.

A wise boss-lady once told me:

Your career will never grow as fast as your children are.

 

SO. TRUE.

 

So into the woods we went. My daughter, my son, my dog, and me. The goal was to escape the Texas heat, explore somewhere new (and y’all know how much we love nature), and fully immerse ourselves in each other’s company without the distractions of home, schedule, friends, and everyday responsibility.

austin lifestyle photographer - documentary family photography

Y’all, it was SUCH a success. I’ll admit I only got about three legit workouts in the whole time (YOU try holding down the fort with no childcare, oh, and at over 8,000 feet altitude), but I gained so much more. We all did. 

The routine of drinking hot cocoa in our pajamas on the deck every morning after a long, sleepy cuddle was worth the two-day drive. Having the mental space to sit down and color with crayons or dig a really big hole at the sandy beach (rather than being half-in because there’s so much on my mind) is a feeling I’ll never forget.

austin lifestyle photographer - documentary family photography

We all laughed more than I can remember at the grocery one time, playing silly-walking and chasing each other all over the store (because we didn’t have to rush it).

Watching the children invent games to play with one another, and growing closer without realizing it – well, it just about makes me weepy just thinking about it. And you KNOW I’m not a weepy kind of person.

Like many colleagues in my field, I have gravitated toward the documentary end of photography as a way of solving a problem.

The problem is (in the words of my daughter’s favorite Bonnie Raitt song) “the years just flow by like a broken-down dam.”

Escaping into the mountains for a month can’t stop time, any more than beautiful photographs portraying our daily life can.  BUT. Just like those photos, the time spent away, together, will live forever, in its own way. And that’s something I’ll never regret.

**Come back next week for where we went and what we did**

READ: Part 1:  What I learned from a month unplugged with my kids

austin lifestyle photographer - documentary family photographer