Toddlers & Teardropin'

by Gary Hawkins, August 30, 2018

After many stressful years of trying to build our own family, we were finally blessed to adopt our daughter, Xaria, in January 2015. The American meaning of Xaria is, “gift of love.” We like to believe Xaria is, “our gift of love” from God, and so began another new and exciting chapter in our lives. Three weeks after her birth in Knoxville, Tennessee, we made the 2,300-mile journey back home to Southern California. This road trip was the first of Xaria’s many traveling adventures and she is the inspiration for this blog.

Yafei Feeding Xaria Somewhere in Texas in our Little Guy 5-Wide TeardropTaking a Break in Phoenix During Our Road Trip Back

Xaria is now an active infant. She is smart and fun loving. Blue-eyed and blond haired, she surprises many with her fluency in Chinese (thanks to my wife, Yafei, and her parents). She has deep dimples and an infectious smile. She loves the simple things in life – family, pets, cuddly toys, plush blankets and the outdoors. She has a soft spot for dogs, dirt and rollie pollies! Put two or more of these together, and she’s in heaven.

We took Xaria on her first camping trip when she was just eleven weeks old. Only thirty miles from our home in San Diego, the Paso Picacho Campground sits at an elevation of approximately 5,000 feet in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Mid-April in this area can still be cold, and the weekend we had chosen proved to be no exception. Afternoon temperatures barely crept into the sixties, and at night plummeted to around freezing. You might think camping with an eleven-week-old is crazy, but it turned out to be straightforward enough. Xaria's needs were simple, “keep me warm, keep me fed and let me nap a lot!

Dad Enjoying Breakfast at Cuyamaca State Park

Dad Enjoying A Hearty Camping Breakfast While Xaria Sleeps in the Sun

Over the next three years, our family has ventured all over Southern California. Teardropping with a young child is easier than you might think.  Here are a few simple tips that might help:

  • If you're using formula, be able to warm it or at least keep it reasonably warm.  Add a little hot water from a thermos to take the cold edge off the formula at night, and stop the little one screaming.  The first time Yafei tried feeding Xaria while camping the formula was so cold it would not come out of the bottle - what happened next woke a few of our neighbors up!
  • Take a Pack-and-Play when they're small, and great for keeping the little one out of trouble;
  • I always pitch a tent close by. Aside from everyone getting more sleeping room, it makes a shady playhouse during the day;
  • Take plenty of warm clothes;
  • A few well-chosen toys will suffice, you don't need to take the entire playroom.  They're going to find playing in the dirt much more fun.
  • An all-terrain stroller is great for eating, naps, walks to help them fall asleep, and adventures away from your campsite;
  • Nobody likes to get sick when they're traveling, and with children, this can often be particularly difficult. Make sure you're carrying a sufficiently stocked medical kit.
  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes - like life, camping is a learning experience.  Try not to make the same mistake twice though!

When they get a little older:

  • Don't worry about them getting dirty - it washes off!
  • Take spare toddler clothes.  For a short trip, we take two outfits for every night we're away;
  • Check your campsite before letting your toddler roam.  We have rattlesnakes and scorpions here so it pays to be vigilant.
  • If you're eating out, finding kid-friendly meals can be challenging. The best way of overcoming this is to have your children eating adult meals before you leave on your camping adventure.

Enjoying Camping at Table Mountain Campground, Wrightwood, California

My Girls Enjoying Another Camping Adventure

In the upcoming book, A Life Redesigned, I look in greater detail at traveling with children.  I'll cover more basic toddler camping tips, homeschooling, socializing and dealing with changing family dynamics.

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