“So I’m about to spend a week in the woods with a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby. Am I crazy?!”
Two of my friends received this message the night before we left to go camping. We were in full packing mode and the sprawl of supplies extended throughout the whole house. My husband joked that we were bringing half our possessions.
That message coincided with the realization that our endeavor might be borderline lunacy. Either we were in fact crazy or we knew that there was enough potential for the incredible to push past the hard parts.
To say our kids were excited would be an understatement. Our much anticipated trip had arrived and finally we could answer their incessant queries of “when” with a simple “tomorrow”.
We told friends and family that we would be gone for a week. My only request was that they would pray that everyone slept.
Our first night of sleep at the campsite wasn’t so bad. The baby slept through the night and my husband was the one getting smacked in the face and repositioning the boys in their sleeping bags. Other than a slight backache, I felt sufficiently refreshed.
Tuesday saw the heights of Mt. Mitchell, naps in the car, and a delicious campsite dinner. The day also saw multiple potty accidents, boots not broken-in, and the worst night of sleep.
It was during this night that I seriously contemplated whether or not we would make it through the week. Jeff and I switched places so I could help the baby and the boys. Being the one without sleep problems, (you know, other than three children), I am usually the one to attend to the kids during the watches of the night.
The night started fine, but by six a.m., I had nursed the baby twice, fumbled out to help my toddler go to the bathroom (pee in the grass), pulled the boys back into their sleeping bags, and whisper pleaded with my eldest to stop crying and go back to sleep (you’ll wake the baby!!!).
So when six a.m. hit and I was once again roused from my slumber, I thought about quitting.
I continued to think about quitting when my husband GROANED in pain as every movement upon waking was met with serious discomfort.
Could we really make it a week camping with three small kids when I just wanted to cry, pretend I didn’t hear their cries, and curl up in my sleeping bag and SLEEP?!
I was in this state of sleep-deprived semi-despair when a pair of familiar verses came to my mind. And honestly, at first I just laughed to myself at the irony of it all, not actually finding any sort of comfort or hope.
Weeping may spend the night,
but there is joy in the morning.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
After the real mercies of strong coffee and a hot fire, I began to see the aptness of these verses. Yes, it is HARD to get poor sleep. No, serving my family graciously in the middle of the night is not easy.
But what followed a few long nights* turned out to be incredible blessings. More than enough joy and mercy to get us through.
*The nights didn’t significantly improve. They weren’t all bad, but they weren’t exactly very restful either. Nonetheless, God allowed the sleep we did get to sufficiently restore us for the next day’s activities. Kind of like how I felt during my most recent season with a newborn…
Here’s what we would have missed…
1. An opportunity almost exclusive to camping: No distractions. No noise. Just us. Unplugged. Together.
A slow morning: baby napping in the tent, Jeff working on his sermon, Jedidiah reading dinosaur books, me writing, Jack drawing on his special board. Almost perfect.
not distracted by Instagram, I actually got some reading done!
2. Fueling friendship. I have a hope that the intentional time we spend together as a family over the years will result in strong friendships for my children. I cannot overstate what a blessing it is to see these two becoming best friends.
3. Of course, an obvious benefit of camping is all.the.things.outside. And if we had given up, we would have missed a lot of amazing sights.
A half–mile underground, inside Linville Caverns. (please excuse the pictures…we were underground…in the dark)
4. S’mores and campfire stories.
My husband is an amazing storyteller. And there’s something about sitting around the fire in the dark that makes his stories even more thrilling. I can’t compete. (So I don’t even try).
I mean, there’s no way I’m going to come up with stories like Bearriffic Ben and The Monster of Bear Mountain. And I’m always in awe of his incredible descriptions as he comes up with stories off the cuff. You just wouldn’t hear me saying “he saw the creature’s yellow glow like a candle burning in a dark box” or “his second spear landed closer and lit up like a child’s birthday candle“. And you can forget about me thinking of sliding my feet under my chair in the gravel to mimic the sound of an enormous approaching dragon.
Listening to his stories in the dark is camping gold.
Yep. I know camping isn’t for everyone. But, I’m thankful that we are on our way to making it part of our family culture. We realized on this trip that this is the third time our 4-year-old and 2.5-year-old have been camping in their short lives. I look forward to many more years of keeping the tradition going.