Happy Campers

Caryn: I have leeches in my fridge right now. They were once bait, but my son—in a long line of animal-loving and rescuing people—decided that instead of using them all to try to catch bass in Green Bay, they should be kept as pets. Pets. Leeches for pets.

And I said it was okay. (Note: I did draw a line when he came to me worried about what they would eat since they really need human blood. I know this boy well and his eyes told me he expected me to offer my wrists. No go. These leeches may die a slow death, actually…. Better to be bait!)

I said it was okay because I’m still on the totally-loving-my-family-loving-my-role-as-mama high that this week’s family camping trip in beautiful Peninsula State Park put me on. (This is not to say that the whole trip was bliss and I didn’t totally melt down and yell at my family at the campsite on Tuesday night. Because it wasn’t and I did….) But aside from prowling and crunching-on-something animals and one huge storm that kept me from sleepinig too well, this trip was great.

Woods. Lake. Bay. Beach. Kayaks. Swedish pancakes. Piers. Beer-battered fried cheese curds. Seeing my five-year-old daughter play fairy house around a tree stump. My two-year-old turning around to smile at me as I pointed out bluffs and caves from the kayak. My seven-year-old hooking nightcrawlers and leeches and casting off with his dad. Me having a solid hour of blissful, sun-setty quiet on a bay-side park bench while two of my kids played together at a playground. What’s not to love about this?

And that was the thing. I know there’s not going to be much to respond to or comment about here, probably. But I just felt like with all the “complaining” we do (or I do) about the roughness of motherhood, about the unfairness of expectations, about losing our identities, I wanted to just give a shout out to what Carla has called the “wonders” of motherhood. (Actually, I think it was the “Wonders of the First Year” but who cares.)

Were I not a mom, camping just now would’ve just been okay. (Though I still think the beach is best sans kids. Oh, how I miss lying in the sun and reading without having to worry about someone drowning!!) Without being able to watch each of my three kids’ personalities shine in the shady woods, it would’ve been, well, watching my city-boy husband roll his eyes at the other campers staring into their fires wondering why we weren’t in that nice hotel with the big porches. Watching a fish boil, at least.

This week’s time in the woods and on a lake with my lovely family just helped me appreciate my family for who we are—individually and collectively. And I loved that. So I thought I’d share.

Carla: I’m so glad you have been willing to sit at my feet and discover the joys of camping.

We, too, were camping this week and I felt much the same way–that despite the fact that neither of the adults got to spend any time in the fabulous hammock, despite the rain that forced us into our tent for most of an afternoon, despite what my husband says may have been the most horrific 45 minutes of his life spent on a bug-plagued trail with our two oldest kids, we had a wonderful time together. We told the kids stories about when they were younger. We pretended we were a pioneer family venturing into the woods for the first time. We snuggled and read and explored and laughed (and some of us yelled a little bit).

Family vacations don’t always bring out the best in me, but camping seems to work for us. It does remind me of the wonders of parenthood. At least once day, I looked at my babies playing together or helping each other or working with us and I was flooded with that warm mommy love.

So maybe the question is, what bring out that rush of love for you? In what activities or moments do you find yourself being reminded of how glorious parenting can be?

Caryn: Well, thanks a lot, Carla. That was going to be MY big wrap up question! (And for what it’s worth, I discovered the joys of camping as a child. The rest of my family hated it, but I actually liked it. So, technically, I was re-discovering the joys. But yes, you sparked my interest again.) So, Revolutionary Mamas (and Steve), what does bring that rush of love?

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