It was 6am and I was fast asleep hovering just a few feet off the ground with the bed of our 1990 Coleman camper to support me, just a slab of sturdy plywood and frame and a thin layer of foam that I consider a camping luxury. I fell asleep that night before snuggled up with my 6 year old at my side, anticipating dad at some point to crawl in on my other side, once his fireside game with the other campers was complete. A sweet auntie snuggled my little girl across the way in the other bed, having a sleepover with us since she was back from college for the weekend.
6:30 began to roll around, and I wake up to a soft voice saying "Mom, a little help please" and turn to see that Haden had actually physically fallen out of the camper. We apparently had forgotten to secure the straps underneath that keep the canvas and bed together, and Haden had rolled over in his sleep and fallen out of the crack. He's usually quite the dramatic one, so wasn't quite sure if he was still semi sleeping when he woke me up to ask for help to pull him out of the crack, where just his head was popping through. I sat up immediately and grabbed him up and tucked him under close to me, and his dad and I burst out laughing at the fact that we just almost lost a kid out the side of our camper, but mostly at his calm reaction to it all.
Why do I love camping with my family so much? I've really stopped to consider this lately. Because, to be quite frank with you, camping, especially with children, is a heck of a lot of work. I often spend my days camping doing honestly the exact same things I'm doing at home: waking up, cooking, cleaning up, and then starting that process all over again. Just this past weekend, I spent a solid 45 minutes giving both my children sponge baths because they both had accidents- I strongly suspect it's because they were too busy playing to stop to use the bathroom.
I always tuck them into bed at night after a long day of playing at the campground, covered in dirt, with remnants of sticky marshmallow goo on their fingers. They smell like campfire and mud, and I'm picking leaves and sticks out of their hair.
It's work, this camping thing.
But as I'm rounding in on turning 30 within the year, I'm seeing more and more the exceptional experiences that come from hard work. They are richer and more vibrant. Their roots are deeper. And most of all, the result of hard work is almost always a particular stronger amount of appreciation for the moments that come afterward.
In short, I'd choose the vibrant experiences and appreciation that derive from hard work any day.
Because at the end of a long camping weekend, as I'm tossing our stained and dirty clothes into the dryer, unpacking the cooler, and rolling up the sleeping bags, I don't remember how hard it all was. I remember the way I looked over from the campfire and saw my kids making forts in the dried up riverbed. Or the way Haden's face lit up when he succeeded in making the perfect roasted marshmallow. Or the warmth of Sadie's little body as we warmed up by the fire that evening.