August 14, 2013

Stop Running And Just Lean...

Him and I have gone camping a lot.  We love camping.  Our wedding registry was filled with things for camping: a camp grill, sleeping bags, coolers, the like.  We even spent part of our honeymoon camping.  We found out that if your marriage can withstand setting up a tent in a wind storm coming off a lake your marriage is going to withstand most anything...even if at the end it requires a beer to wash it all down!  We had gone camping every summer until the summer Daughter was born.

That summer we took a break from camping because well, camping with a one month old didn't sound like a ton of fun.  Yet, even on our baby registry we asked for one of those folding, hook to the table highchairs knowing we would be camping with our children later in life.

The next summer, we went camping with Daughter and it was awesome.  There's a campground about one hour from our house that Him basically spent every summer growing up.  This campground is on a river which is perfect because along with camping we happen to also love boating.  We bought a boat before having children too knowing we would want to share our love of the water with our children.  In that one week of camping, Daughter learned so much.  She went in non-pool water for the first time, she went hiking through the woods, it was her first boat ride.  It was so much fun to watch all the different looks of joy and amazement play across her face!

We skipped the next year because that was the year we lost MJ.  The next year, Son was only one month old when we normally would have gone camping and camping with a 3 year old and a one month old sounded exhausting.

This summer, Daughter is 4 and Son is 1.  July 16 we set off for a week of camping.  Daughter was so excited cuz I had been showing her pictures from her first camping experience and she couldn't wait to go.  We borrowed a camper and loaded it full with everything we could think of that we might need.  We pulled the camper and one of our buddies that we've been camping with for years pulled the boat.  We got to our campsite and started setting up the camper and all of the chairs around the fire pit and put the table highchair on the picnic table.  We put the boat in the water and moored it in the channel that was right in front of our campsite.  Our buddies had the 3 adjoining campsites.  It was all set out pretty darn perfect!

To be honest, I was dreading this whole experience.  Daughter had been a defiant little butt.  She was screaming NO in my face when I asked her to do something, when I still made her do it she would stick her tongue out at me with little arms folded across her chest.  She was using selective hearing as good reasoning for not knowing what I had told her to do in the first place.  She was arguing with everything that came out of my mouth.  Good example here:
Me: STOP ARGUING WITH EVERYTHING THAT I SAY!  Not everything in life is an argument.  I swear I could say the sky is blue and you would argue with me!
Daughter: Actually, the sky is gray right now...
Yep, she was right cuz it was about to rain but man, did I ever understand wanting to smack a kid right then!  Basically, she had the attention span of a 4 year old with the attitude of a teenager.  Also, Son still wasn't sleeping through the night and trying to keep Daughter asleep while trying to navigate in a small pop-up to get Son and make him food at 2am in complete darkness was not a thrilling prospect.

So, when we arrived and both kids were crazy right off the bat cuz Daughter saw the playground when we pulled in and wanted to go there the second she got out of the truck and Son was just so happy to not be in the confines of his carseat anymore so he was off and running as soon as we set him on his feet, I knew this week was not going to be the normal relaxation I expected when camping!  A little while after showing up at the campground, Him's mom and dad showed up and took the kids to the playground leaving us to set everything up in a little less chaos.  When they brought the kids back later, we had everything pretty well sorted out and the camper all set up.

Right away, upon returning from the playground, Daughter had to go to the bathroom.  Our campsite was situated about 20 steps from our boat, about 30 steps from the playground and about a half mile from the bathroom.  So, I took Daughter on a walk to the bathroom.  Daughter, being a social butterfly, said Hi to everyone we passed walking, people sitting on their campsites, the rangers riding in their John Deere Gator, the guy at the camp store, literally everyone.  I was greeted by each one of them with words about how adorable she was, which put a smile on my face.  When she was done, we started the trek back and she was talking to everyone on the way back, telling them where our site was, pointing out our boat, letting them know we were going to be there for "one WHOLE week".  Upon returning to the campsite, we found everybody getting stuff for dinner together.  I sat down in one of the camp chairs around the fire and prepared to feed Son when Daughter walked up to me and whispered, "Mom, I need to pee again."  To which I reply, "Are you serious?"  The reply was nodding and holding her crotch between crossed legs.  Off on the half mile walk we go.  The waving and talking all the way there was again greeted with smiles and laughter and comments about how much exercise I was going to get camping.  Daughter sat on the toilet for 2 minutes not peeing.  We returned to the campsite, again many stops to let people know everything about Daughter's camping experience so far.  After about 40 half mile trips 3 days in a row, I finally realized, Daughter "had to pee" only because she wanted to go socialize with every single person that she could.  I said to her, "Hey babe, if you're just looking to go for a walk, ask to go for a walk so I can see something other than the same people and so I don't have to spend this much time standing in a hot bathroom for no reason.  We can walk all over the campground if you want just stop pretending you have to pee."  Yep, it took me 3 days!  So after that though, we went on lots of walks; to the ranger station, to the playground, to the beach, all much better destinations!  Everywhere we went, Daughter made sure she was the center of attention, playing up the charmer side of her.  When we were on the boat, she waved at every passing boat.  She caught a grasshopper and had to show all the friends she had met.  One of the rangers told her she should name him Jiminy to which Daughter replied, "No, Jiminy is a cricket and this is a grasshopper!"

Son was off on adventures at all times.  There were sticks to bang on things, stones to throw at things, things to climb on, pinecones to try to shove in his mouth when we weren't watching.  He would wave at all the vehicles that went by our campsite.  He was enthralled whenever the John Deere Gator went by and the rangers would always wave at him.  He loved the boat...he even fell asleep on the boat once.  He had so much fun at the playground, following his sister around.  He was so exhausted most nights he slept from 11pm until 8am and it was wonderful.

I remember there was yelling, there were nights that Son would refuse to fall asleep and days he refused to take a nap.  I remember all the walks to the bathroom getting upset when Daughter didn't actually have to pee.  I remember how early some of those mornings felt when I had stayed up to sit by the fire the night before.  I even remember how I drove Daughter about 10 miles toward home so she wouldn't be able to call me out as a liar after I threatened to take her home if she didn't start listening.

But what I really remember is the great talk we had in the truck, just my daughter and I, on that 10 mile drive.  I remember Son's face breaking into a huge grin every time someone waved back at him.  I loved how Daughter charmed the pants off everyone she met.  I cracked up watching Son try to do everything Daughter did.  I loved seeing the excitement on both their faces when we climbed into the boat.  I was astonished by how awesome all our friends we were camping with were with both our kids.  I was so not excited by our friend teaching Daughter to say, "EXCUUUUUUSSSSE ME!" whenever she farted, but it was funny!  I almost teared up when Son waved at the waves cuz I told him to look at the waves behind the boat just like his sister did when she was his age and took her first camping trip.

What I remember most about the whole trip is the last night.  Sunday afternoon we said goodbye to some of our friends that left, leaving our family and one friend that was the best man at our wedding.  Monday morning, Best Man took our family for a boat ride and pulled Him for a ski ride and then we said goodbye to Best Man and our boat since Best Man is the one that pulled it up there and was pulling it back home.  That left just our family.  There were no campers within 3 sites of our campsite in all directions.  It was like we were on our own island for that last night.  We went down to the beach, just our family.  We made a sandcastle and went swimming.  Daughter collected all the pink rocks she could find and put them in a baby food jar to remember the trip.  We went to the playground and watched as Daughter helped Son climb into the wooden train and Him and I delighted in them both giggling while they rode the teeter-totter together.  We walked around the long way back to our campsite.  We had dinner, just our family.  And that night, Daughter had her first s'more.  She watched in awe as the marshmallow plumped over the fire.  She wiggled with anticipation while she waited for the chocolate to melt.  She was so excited to take that first bite and she got gooey all over.  Her face was covered with sticky marshmallow and melted chocolate, her hands stuck together, she wiped them on her pants and got them all sticky and all with a huge smile on her face highlighted by the glowing fire.  We sat by firelight to read bedtime stories as a family.  We walked out by the river to say goodnight to the moon.  Daughter went to sleep in the camper and Him, Son and I sat staring at the fire and talking about all the fun stuff that happened all week.  Son started yawning and we put him into the pack-n-play in the camper.  Him and I sat by the fire for a little while longer.  We climbed into our bed exhausted but with smiles on our faces.

The next morning, we got up and started packing up and getting ready to go.  I took the kids around the campground as Him took down the camper.  Daughter sadly said goodbye to all her admirers as we walked.  Son was happy to see the Gator one last time.  We climbed in the truck and set off for home.  We waved goodbye to the trees and thanked them for their shade.  We waved goodbye to the river and thanked it for cooling us on those 90 degree days.  We waved goodbye to the park and promised to be back again next year.  On the way home, it had become a tradition before we had kids to stop at an A&W restaurant, so we stopped to have lunch and Daughter was thrilled to get a root beer float.  Son slept through the whole ride home.

Thinking back on the dread I felt before we left and the joy throughout the trip and especially that last day as a family, it's funny to me.  As a parent I get caught up in the day to day things, the things that need to be done, the schedules that need to be kept, the monotony of it all.  I watch my children to make sure they are safe, to make sure they are being nice and good, to make sure they are eating well, to make sure they are careful.  Yet, during all that watching somehow I wasn't seeing.

Camping, the no other distractions of it, gave me the chance to see my kids, to admire them for who they are without rushing them on to what needed to be done.  Of course, back from camping, we had to get back to real life.  There was unpacking to do and that leads to laundry to get done.  Then there's grocery shopping to do to restock the fridge.  Of course those bills didn't stop just because we were on vacation.  There are so many things that need to get done.  Back to real life.

This past Monday was what felt like a really long day.  Daughter wasn't feeling well and was taking it out on me.  Son  is cutting 3 teeth at once and is having a bad time with it.  When Him came home from work, I basically ran out the door screaming, "FREEDOM!"  I was just going grocery shopping but man, was it awesome!  While driving, I popped in a Bob Seger CD.  "Against the Wind" came on and I blared it.  I totally understood the lines, "Well those drifter days are passed me now, I've got so much more to think about, deadlines and commitments...Older now but still running against the wind."  I feel ya, Bob!

Tuesday came and I went on a walk with Son in the stroller and Daughter walking next to me.  We were on our way to the library.  It was really windy and we were literally walking against the wind.  The irony was not lost on me!  All the sudden, Daughter stopped put her arms out and leaned into the wind, letting it push her back.  I stopped and watched her and slowly, feeling a little silly, threw my arms to my sides and leaned into the wind.  Son was giggling, Daughter was giggling and as the wind died a little and I almost fell flat on my face, we all started out right laughing.  Daughter, still laughing, said, "Isn't leaning against the wind fun!?!?"  Man, kids can be great teachers...stop running and just's way more fun!

Daughter and Son, it is my promise to you, I will try to stop running and try to lean more and not watch you grow up but see you in this now...if I start running too far ahead again, please remind me how much more fun it is to lean.

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