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Life Lessons from a Father Who Cried His First Day of RVing

Updated: Nov 20, 2021

I’ve always tried to not envision myself a certain way as I’ve gone through life. Thank goodness I didn’t see my future self as a filthy rich entrepreneur with six-pack abs at 37 years old. If you lift up my shirt or check my bank account, you’ll quickly see that neither of these have come true.

However, one thing I’ve always envisioned for myself was to be a father. I didn’t know how many children I would have. I didn’t know if they would be biological, adopted, special needs, boy, girl, nothing specific. I just knew I wanted to be a dad. I wanted someone that I could pass a piece of my heart and my inner beliefs on to.

It took us over a year, but a little over 3 years ago Marissa and I brought Hensley into this world. I had no clue what the future had for her or for me as a dad. I just knew I loved her more than I could have imagined and somehow I continue to love her more and more every day.

During the last 2 years of living in an RV, I’ve seen my little girl learn to run, speak full sentences, develop a sense of humor, and embrace the unknown. I’ve seen her count, sound out her alphabet, and sing her heart out to the the Trolls Movie soundtrack (I’m much more open to Justin Timberlake as a Troll than a teenage heart-throb in a boy band).

We’ve been through a lot as a family in an RV. Everything is closer. More personal. And we feel what each other is feeling on a regular basis. There are no rooms to retreat to. No separate TVs. Nowhere to hide. It’s all in the open.

I remember crying as I held Hensley only 1 day into our first RV purchase. The trailer had much more wrong with it than the owners led me to believe.

We’d already handed the money to the owner and pulled into our first campground 2 hours away for the night. However, pulling into the campground was about the only thing we could do with the camper.  Unknown to us, the toilet was busted. The Kitchen sink pipes were cracked. The bathroom sink was toast. The shower had water streaming out of the wrong places. The instant-hot (that’s french for very expensive) water heater literally looked like someone had put a bullet through it.

I didn’t know it yet, but all this damage was going to be $3,000 to fix. And it was my fault. I hadn’t fully inspected the trailer. I believed the people selling it to me when they told me all the water had been flushed out the winter before.

As I stood in the RV bedroom holding Hensley, emotions crept over me as I felt like I’d let my family down. Dreams of selling our house and being closer as a family had led us down this path, but unfortunately I’d blown almost all of our money on a 5,000 pound super shiny paper weight.

Marissa had left to take a shower in the bathhouse (since we couldn’t even use water in the camper) and it was all I could to to keep it together. Then Hensley began to cry. It was like she was telling me I was a failure. Like I’d let the family down. So I did all I knew to do. I balled my eyes out as well.

Hensley was 6 weeks old so I’m sure she only knew she’d had a long day, but her cries meant more to me than that. When Marissa walked in she she stood in the doorway in shock to see the both of us in tears. She still makes fun of me to this day that I cried over an RV, but didn’t cry at our wedding, but that’s a story for another day.

But that long, tear-filled day opened my eyes to how hard I was willing to push for my family. Part of me wanted to give up. Part of me wanted to retreat to our house we still hadn’t sold, ditch the paper-weight of a camper, and embrace the life we already knew. But something about going through the hard times actually made me want to push on more.

That’s the crazy thing about RV living. Even if things go wrong, often things are going right.

We grew closer as a family through that experience and we laugh about all we went through with that first travel trailer. I’ve grown more patient as a father. Through the tears. Through the toddler tantrums. Through the breakdowns, the lost blankets, the never-ending potty training, and the half mile hikes that now take us 2 hours. I’m crazy about that curly headed little girl.

Time still flies as a parent for me, but RV living has let me slow it down just a bit while I’ve watched Hensley grow. We don’t have the 2,000 square feet to live in any more. The SUV. The gym memberships. My dedicated room as an office in our house has now turned into a dedicated section of the couch.

But it’s all worth it. All of those things can be acquired again. Lost time with my daughter cannot.

So here’s to another 2 years on the road. Another 2 years of watching my baby girl grow from a toddler into a child. Another 24 months of adventure, family time, and most likely some tears along the way. Life has a way of teaching us lessons. I can only hope I embrace my time enough to continue to grow, learn, and pass my heart on to those after me.

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