This post is part of the 31 Days to Flourish in Motherhood series. Click here for the whole list!
Do you know what’s great about living in Denver? Packing up the SUV on a Friday afternoon, driving a couple hours into the mountains, and pitching a tent. Huddling around a fire roasting marshmallows and sipping on scalding hot cocoa. The intoxicating aroma of wood smoke and pine needles. Snuggling in a sleeping bag wearing so many layers you might as well be headed to the ski slopes. Waking up freezing cold with the knowledge that coziness is just the strike of a match away. Bacon and oatmeal cookie pancakes and camp coffee. Hurriedly changing into shorts and tank tops as the sun warms the mountainside. Hiking to the lake and tossing a frisbee on the beach. And repeat.
On a recent trip to Bass Pro, the boys found a couple of tents set up in a display and were fascinated. We told Big E that people use them to sleep outside, and he really thought we were putting him on. So we began to tell him stories of our own camping trips, of sleeping under the stars on a mountain side… and of course, once the topic was breached, there was no going back. He kept asking when we were going to sleep in a tent in the mountains. (Well, we don’t live in Colorado anymore, so not any time soon!)
We had already been considering setting up our tent in the back yard, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, and basically just letting the boys play in it. That turned into a tentative plan for Husband and E to sleep outside overnight while I put G down in his own room. But something about that visit to Bass Pro nudged me toward taking a risk. We want to go on camping trips as a family. We knew it wouldn’t happen this year; the summer and fall were already too busy… but maybe by next year? We decided that we would give it a try in the back yard on the next available weather-cooperating Friday night. ALL of us.
It was late September by the time the stars aligned, and even then, we knew it would be cold during the night. We had all been fighting change-of-season colds. Baby G completely skipped his nap that Friday. But… this was our last chance this year, and we were determined to at least try.
We agreed to keep expectations low as we pitched the tent. The boys adored the whole process. Big E hammered in the stakes. They both helped gather kindling for the fire while I gathered veggies and dip and cooked baked beans inside.
We ate outside, and they were ecstatic about everything different and special about the evening. They watched, mesmerized, as I flipped the switch and our inflatable bed began to expand. They snuggled together on the pallet I constructed for E. They followed each other around the back yard with flashlights and lamps. We listened to the sounds of the night, noting that we did not need our sound machines because God had already set up cicadas and the breeze and the soft sounds of a dying fire.
We got the littles ready for bed inside, changing into footie pajamas and brushing teeth and making sure all the blankets in the house were piled into our new sleeping quarters. The last part of our bedtime routine, however, we conducted in the tent. The Pack & Play was set up in one room of the tent with a camp chair so I could nurse G in his room to help him feel comfortable, but first we said our nightly prayers and read our customary two books.
My favorite memory of their childhood to date is that of snuggling together on our queen-sized air bed, reading books by lamplight. Time stood still. Life was simple. Baby G fell asleep in daddy’s arms (he never falls asleep outside of his bed!). We sang “Warm, Warm As Our Campfire” and kissed the boys goodnight. Husband and I sat around the smoldering embers of the fire pit, talking until it was late enough for sleep. A bright, almost-full moon shone through the tent roof — God’s night light.
Baby G woke around 2 a.m., upset and not remembering where he was, and then neither of the boys could stop coughing — allergies and the cold air, I’m sure. So I took G inside, and we slept in our own beds while Big E was delighted to crawl into my sleeping bag and sleep on the big air bed with his daddy. It was a perfectly sleepless night. Big E was up with the sun, and we were all exhausted by the time I turned on the Keurig and made biscuits and we roasted sausages over a new fire. But an open Saturday stretched before us, so the boys played in the yard and then helped break camp. I did loads of smoky laundry, and we all napped hard that afternoon. As Husband and I are prone to do, we had pulled off this camping experience with a flourish.
Like most of the things I find myself dreading because of the potential work/stress/exhaustion involved, taking this risk paid off in a huge way. It was worth it all. Beautiful, memory-making memories are worth it. There are plenty of opportunities I’ve turned down because my littles are not great sleepers and thrive on routine. But as they get older and are less prone to melting down at any little change, I want to say yes whenever I can. I want to say yes to memories. Say yes to experiences that we will all treasure. Say yes to building family traditions. And eventually, we’ll say yes to camping in the mountains again.
This post is part of my Say Yes mini-series within my 31 Days to Flourish in Motherhood series. Will you join me as I step outside my comfort zone and say yes to flourishing through fun?