“Fun,” I learned that night, meant trying to get three kids to sleep in a loud, crinkly tent on the rocky ground. Fun meant having to squat under the stars while going to the bathroom outside in the middle of the night. Fun meant freezing my face off because I forgot a hat and pillow to sleep with. Fun meant my 1-year-old throwing up in the middle of the night and then sleeping with us. Fun meant listening to the sounds of coyotes barking and yipping and yowling way too close for comfort and wondering if they could chew their way through our tent.
Well, six of the longest hours of my life and one rainstorm later, it was morning. We got up and made pancakes and bacon while the boys searched for sticks with their friends. Watching their excitement and pure wonder of the world made me think of what a good experience for them — and a good learning experience for me — this camping excursion was. I learned that it’s easier to throw all our camping gear in big plastic bins rather than a flimsy Ikea bag. I learned that no matter what season it is during the daytime in the valley, it is always wintertime in the mountains at night. I learned that if my 1-year-old gets hold of my hairspray and sprays a few shots into his mouth, it will result in a midnight puking.
But I also learned how much my boys need the outdoors. They need the challenge of the mountains. They need to run and scream and be brave and throw rocks and tough it out. They need to learn to cook outside, to adapt to difficult circumstances and to make the best of a situation. They need to appreciate not only the breathtaking beauty of the earth — the brilliant sunsets, the slow sunrises and the sound of the birds — but also how much we really have. It’s amazing what being away from TV, phones, warm heaters and running water will do for a person.
My boys spent the drizzly morning hiking. My oldest cried when we left. I couldn’t believe how they didn’t even notice that their feet were muddy or that their food had dirt in it or that they had to pee on trees. In fact, those things probably made the whole thing better.
After we got home and spent the entire day cleaning out our dusty mini-van, drying out our tent and doing about five loads of laundry, I once again looked at my husband and said, “So, was it worth it?”
“Yeah, I think so," he said. "You know, the boys aren’t going to remember how hard we worked to make this happen. They aren’t going to remember the pain of loading everything up, driving all the way up there, hauling everything back home and then getting everything back in order. They just remember how much fun they had. They are just going to remember spending time as a family and being outside discovering their world.”
I have a very wise husband, and he’s right. Camping, like life, is not perfect most of the time. Most of the time it’s a little rocky, a little dirty, constantly changing and a lot of work. Sometimes you get a little rain, sometimes you deal with illness, sometimes you have unhappy campers and perhaps sometimes you think, “Is this worth it?”
And then I remember the songs we sang around the campfire, the laughter of children and the company of good friends. I remember being together and struggling together and working together and growing together as a family. I remember catching a brilliant shooting star.
And those good things make all the difficult things worth it.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.
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