The request came early yesterday. It happens once a Summer and I find myself mixed with a rush of both nostalgia and dread.
"Can we set up tents and camp in the yard?"
Of course, every parent knows what this really means: Can you and Dad set up our tents, watch us drag two dozen armloads full of inside stuff outside, and then wake up several times during the night as we get scared and come in one-by-one?
So much work for a generally predictable outcome. Of course, remembering the pursuits of our own childhoods and suckers for the excited chatter adventures like this bring, we said yes.
K & B spent the morning sweeping, mopping and scrubbing our neglected treehouse--making lists of the contents for the 'survival packs,' replacing batteries in flashlights and supervising my husband as he set up their mini tents. R & P were late entries to this adventure, but nonetheless chattered away as their Dad erected our family tent in the back yard and helped them situate their lanterns.
About 15 minutes later I heard yelling and peeked out the upstairs window to see P standing in the floodlit yard, staring out into the darkness. "It's just our dogs, girls!"
Good for him, I thought, being a brave little sentry. I washed my face and settled into bed. Just as we were drifting off to sleep we heard the doorbell. "I keep hearing things and wondering if it is a robber coming to break in our house that will see our tents and decide to kidnap a kid or two instead." Another man down. 10:33pm
With the boys tucked snugly in their beds, we had high hopes for the girls. If nothing else, their excitement over the idea and exhaustion from an action packed day in the sun were in our corner. My next memory is being awakened from a deep sleep by the door chimes of our home alarm system. 12: 51am
As I came downstairs I spotted two little girls huddled together, holding hands as they crept through the sleeping house. As I got closer I realized my K was uncharacteristically sobbing.
"I. just. want. to. sleep. in. my. bed," she eeked out between gasps.
I rushed over and hugged her tight. "Of course. What happened, baby?"
"I got stuck in my tent," she sobbed, "The zipper wouldn't move. I couldn't get out. B. was asleep and couldn't hear me to help. It was like 20 minutes."
How terrifying! My heart hurt for her. Of all the worst case scenarios, being trapped in a tent hadn't even crossed my worried Mama mind.
I went back out with the girls to collect their stuffed animals and pillows. Climbing into a dark tree house in my pajamas after midnight made me giggle even in my middle of the night stupor. It only took a few minutes until they were safe and sound asleep indoors.
As I crawled back into bed & recapped with my husband he quipped, "We knew it would end like this. I almost told them no, but I just couldn't bring myself to break their spirits."
Even exhausted, I agreed.
This is the thing about intentional parenting: it isn't always convenient.
Although on the surface it appears this whole event was a bust, there were several little wins.
1. The children were able to enthusiastically pursue an idea that cost us nothing but a little sleep.
2. They pridefully spent hours cleaning, planning and working to make it happen.
3. The children were able to feel 'believed in.' (We kept our doubtful comments to ourselves.)
4. They were able to enjoy a sense of accomplishment--making it farther than they have in the past.
As I am writing this morning they are all still asleep, but no doubt much of today will be spent recounting their adventure--and cleaning up the mess. I get to check "backyard camping" off this Summer's list and look forward to next year.