We’re just back from a week at family camp. It was our eighth year, and there’s much to love. For one, the corny entertainments. There are singalongs and sketches and silliness that benefit from being performed in such an improbable spot, tucked into the trees in the Sierra Mountain wilderness. There’s barely electricity, but these college kids, after making our meals and keeping our children in fun all day, are out on stage, working their butts off.
There’s the standby “Seven Old Ladies Are Stuck in the Lavatory,” which I’ll sing it for you next time I see you. One I’m sure won’t sound funny reading about it in the comforts of home: “Near and Far,” where a young person with a great deal of stamina stands on stage and yells “Near!” …and runs off some distance before yelling “Far!” Repeat, with more and more ground covered, yelling alternately from the stage and then further and further and further away. Some combination of exertion and comic timing, and the pleasant campfire in the woods, make it delightful. At the finale, she runs all the way down the hill out of sight, and you hear the faint ding of the far away dining hall bell.
One of the joys of camp for my kids is that they truly can wander pretty far all week. There’s nowhere to go but the woods, only parents and staff and squirrels among the trees. They find the freedom exhilarating. As a point of pride, they eat no meals with us all week but seek out friends or staffers to sit with.
And I enjoy their independence too, at least until I start to wonder if they have any need for parents. Shouldn’t I be monitoring them a little bit? Might their sunscreen have worn off? As my inner chatter ramps up, I start to notice other parents whose kids don’t seem to ignore them all week. Look, there’s a 9 year old with his parents. A 12 year old! Why are our kids so ungrateful and so uninterested and…
You see where this train is going.
But by nightfall they’re exhausted, and filthy, and they collapse into their beds in our tent cabin. Even with the hot days, the nights are cool and the sleeping bags are welcome. And, what do you know, come 2 or 3 or 4am, one of them crawls into bed with us, usually followed by the other before the sun is up.
If we’d had them since birth I think they’d sleep on their own every night, at least I tell myself that I’d make them. But they had a rough start in this life. Shayla spent her first four plus years, and Jaden his first year and a half, in situations that led to the foster system, and then us. So I think we’re still making up for lost time, whatever consistency or attention or assurances or snuggles they didn’t get, I hope we’re still giving those back to them, bit by bit, as they sleep.
It’s not super comfortable with a 6 and 10 year old.
Luckily, I can sleep through just about anything, or rather wake and sleep and wake and sleep and still mostly sleep. So, wedged in between two still-somewhat-little sleeping bodies, I hear the wind in the pines, and smile to myself. My kids may stretch to the far end of their tether each day at camp, but by night they’re as near as they can get.