Had I known a getaway at a cabin would help bring us closer as a family, I would have done this way sooner. But of course, there´s no sight like hindsight. I also understand that everything needs to happen in its own time. Say what we will, we can´t force certain things.
If you follow me on social media you know we´re a happy blended family of five. We built this tight-knit clan eight years ago, when the kids were five, six and eight and we´ve always been proud and grateful of how well we managed to pull it all off, with love, patience and understanding.
But then the kids grew older, and eventually hit their teens. Right now the members of our brood are 13, 14 and 16. And let me tell you, it hasn´t been an easy ride for the past year and a half. My husband and I have spent a large part of our time and emotional energy trying to keep the oldest two out of trouble and on the right track. I´ve cried myself to sleep more than once and questioned my parenting skills. My heart´s been shattered in a million pieces.
Our stay at St. Petersburg/Madeira Beach KOA was like medicine for the soul. My husband kept telling me that it was like we´d gotten our kids back. It was a fantastic weekend for all of us. I felt all the stress of the last months melt away. I slept more soundly than I had in a long time, even when the kids were watching TV in the next room.
We were lucky. The campground is just an hour away from Sarasota, Florida, where we live, but far enough to be new to all of us, except for my husband, who knows the area better. To shake things up even further, the weather went from sunny 80´s on Thursday to rainy and windy 50´s during the weekend. It was almost like we´d traveled to a different state! It was certainly not the fall weather we´re used to here! But we packed warm clothes and had a really great time.
The deluxe cabin with a water view was equipped with air conditioning and heat (we used the heat), a queen bed, pullout couch and a bedroom for the kids, with four bunkbeds. Linens were provided, as well as kitchenware. We only had to bring food.
Our youngest two got a real kick out of the campgrounds. They ran around, rented bikes, played football, mini-golf, shuffleboard and tether ball. My eldest and I wanted to kayak but it was a tad windy and cold for our taste. Any other person used to the cold outdoors would have had a blast, I´m sure!
My husband brought his guitar and enjoyed jamming while the kids cooked hotdogs and s´mores. He cooked our dinner burgers, and I made us all breakfast in the morning. A long game of Monopoly was played, walks were taken, and there was also dinner out at great restaurant on Madeira Beach, plus a fun family outing to the boardwalk on John´s Pass, which is a five-minute drive from the campgrounds.
We walked around the premises to see all the other types of cabins, which range from handicap-accessible to the most basic. “They´re so cute, they look like Lincoln-log cabins,” the kids said. There were also many RVs and a couple of tents. There are bathrooms, cleanup areas and laundromats for these. Some guests are seasonal while others stay year-round. There were also weekenders like us.
But what a weekend it was. If you’re the parent of teens, let me tell you from experience (and from reading really good books on the subject), that if you´re feeling lost and helpless, you aren´t alone. You also aren´t a bad parent. Your kid does not really hate you even if he or she acts that way or tells you so. Quite the contrary, the teenage human that is struggling with his or her identity and doing everything in their power to become independent, actually needs you more than ever. I´m very glad to have figured this out relatively early on in the game.
I highly recommend you take your hormone-laden teen or teens on an electronics-free family camping trip. No, I´m not out of my mind. I get it, just the thought of all of you together in close quarters gives you the shivers. Well, trust me, give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.
My eldest—who only three months ago wanted to go off, live on her own and never see me again,—loved the experience. One night while soaking in the campground’s hot tub under the stars, she hugged me and said she was really really sorry for everything she´d ever said and done that hurt me.
“If I ever say I hate you, which I won´t,” she whispered, “I really don´t. I love you mami.” And she hugged me tight. It was one of those moments that I will cherish and remember forever.
From the moment we got there to the minute we checked out, the KOA folks were super attentive and nice, and let us know what the main store opening hours were, that we could have firewood delivered to our cabin (we certainly did!), and recommended places to go. My eldest joked it was like we´d become a member of their family when we had to say goodbye.
On our way home we took the scenic route, so we could enjoy parts of the Gulf coast we´d never seen before. “We really need to do this more often,” my husband and the kids said at different times as we drove home. And, something tells me, we will!
I really encourage you to plan a family getaway like ours! Visit GoRVing.com to find campgrounds with park model cabins like the one we stayed in at St Petersburg KOA, great destinations across the US, how to choose the RV that’s right for you and so much more!