One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to sleep out. We had an old Army pup-tent that my grandfather gave us – it was musty and stinky, hot, and did little to keep us dry. But we loved sleeping out on hot Summer nights in SE Portland. When we were older, we built awesome tree forts – and when we had no trees, we put posts in the ground and “acquired” lumber from nearby building sites.
My camping career morphed into a great love of the outdoors. During my college years in Walla Walla, I and a friend would load up our K-Mart backpacks with canned goods, a cast iron skillet, and some other stuff and head off into the Wallowa Mountains for the weekend. After many a wet night enduring insufficient gear, I finally acheived my dream of having good gear.
The last time I used my three-season tent was when The Wife was pregnant with our now three-and-a-half-year-old Darling Daughter. Now when we camp, we use the three-room Coleman that is big enough to park my 4Runner in. Except, who has time to camp? We haven’t used that tent since my DD was about six-months old.
So, now we’re in Oregon and Daddy isn’t working 80 hours a week anymore. All Summer long I’ve been dreaming of camping, but you know how schedules go. I’ve been promising DD that we’d set up the tent and sleep out in the backyard. But she hasn’t camped since she was just a few months old, so she has trouble putting Daddy’s words into context.
We were supposed to camp at Lake Merwin two weekends ago with a bunch of friends. Smiling son was running a 103 degree temperature at night though. Then there was the anticipation of rain. So, instead of camping, we commuted. Bummer.
So Daddy promised DD, and invited The Wife and SS (they declined), to camp out in the backyard a couple of nights ago. DD and I set up the tent. In the process she learned about smashed fingers and hammers – but moved right on to the next stake.
I made a big deal out of her loading up her backpack with bedtime stories, warmer pajamas, and a flashlight. I got out the lantern and she spread out her new sleeping bag with great earnestness. We were ready. But when it came right down to it, DD didn’t want to sleep in that new warm sleeping bag, she wanted to cuddle with Daddy – how could I say no?
About 3:30 am, DD woke up cold and scared. “What are you scared of,” I asked.
“Nothing. I’m just scared.” She answered. “I want to go sleep with Mommy.”
So, I scooped her up and tromped barefooted across the moist grass and took her to Mommy’s warm bed. Mommy was not surprised.
Last night, my Darling Daughter awoke from a dream crying. I scooped her up and we cuddled in the recliner and she fell right back to sleep, but when I started to get up and take her back to bed, she began digging at my t-shirt. She was on a mission! As she came out of her stupor, she began saying, “Where is it? Where is it?”
I finally figured out that she was looking for one of the caterpillars she’d caught earlier in the day.
There is nothing better, in all the world, than holding my kids. People tell me to enjoy it while I can, for soon they will grow up and be gone. One man told me he made a mistake when his kids were young – he blinked. Next thing he knew he was walking them down the aisle.
I’ve been asking people whose kids are grown if they ever think about their kids the way I do about mine. I ask them if they are still crazy about their kids. The unanimous answer is this: It only grows stronger.
If that’s true, then I have nothing else to do, but love my kids. Everything else can wait.