We had to think long and hard about whether to commit to camping this year. The baby doesn't care for road trips or sleeping at night or not shrieking like a banshee just any old time she feels like it. But my parents always said of camping, the worst trips make the most treasured memories. That, I know is true.
It was hard but it was also worth it. We do it every year so it illuminates the changes in my children very clearly. I saw my son through the camera lens and his cheeks were less round than they had been, but his single favorite activity was still feeding the ducks as it has been for every year prior. He still holds my hand and roasts for me the perfect marshmallow but he was also able to help quickly put in tent spikes as a mountain rainstorm threatened. And cross the stream on a log without his daddy.
My daughter is still terrified of the black bears who wander through the campground from time to time, but I used to have to prod her up the mountain trails and now she meets each hike with an enthusiastic smile. She pushed us to go find that waterfall we could hear, but not see and vowed to reach the highest summit next year. All the years I spent pointing out fungi and flowers, lichen, moss and familiar stones have finally paid off and the children notice them on their own now. They are confident, competent little campers.
Two years ago, when our children went to a neighboring campfire to roast marshmallows, I sat sobbing around our own fire and asked simply of my husband, "We can still try for one more, right?"
That 'one more' joined us this year for her first ever camping trip. She delighted in the cold water of the streams, the stones, the grassy areas where she could roam free (no deadly mosquitoes! no fire ants!). She snuggled close and warm in my sleeping bag with me. I carried her on my back for every hike and nursed her in the wrap on the way down (not recommended, my goodness, that was harder than last year!). No, I didn't sleep much but I never really do anyway. To wake repeatedly through the night to the sounds of a Great Horned Owl hooting in the trees while all my babies and my husband slept within arm's reach? Well, I can't really complain about that.
And my two older children were finally able to stay up late enough to look up and see the stars in the clear, dark sky, a description for which I have no words. I felt, feel, blessed far beyond what I deserve.