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What Happens At An Autumn Campfire After The Kids Go To Bed

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All the elements were in place for this little multi-family autumn getaway a couple of weeks ago. A sea of camp chairs, a near-empty foil tray that used to have a few dozen of Tori's special home made cookies, aspen trees turning a sun-yellow color, headlamps on heads, special kids-only tent filled with community toys, fading glow sticks on the ground, yawning children slouching in their dads' laps, a fabulous moon, a sky full of stars, friendly chatter and jokes . . .

. . . and then a piercing pop cracked a ponderosa log in the fire and sent a wayward coal into the air. We watched it rise, paint a wild streak of red in the air, then simply disappear into the ether as quickly as it had emerged—why are there so many little natural murmurs like this that symbolize the cycle of life as we know it?

We'd left home that morning at just 9:00, not too early, not too late. By lunchtime, we were pointing the bumpers and all-terrain tires down a wet Jeep trail that split an aspen grove topped with a beautiful highlighter yellow leaves and we finally found this opening in the forest to pitch the tents. We rode bikes, relieved beers, and talked about the difficulties of Monday through Friday mornings and getting kids ready for thier big days in kindergarten and first grade. It's more often a battle than it is a peaceable undertaking.

It goes more like this: "We need to go! How many times have I asked you to put your shoes on? GO! Do it!" Or it's do your homework or brush your teeth or don't talk back to your mother or clean your mess or don't hit your sister or eat three more bites of your dinner without talking please . . . or whatever it is you deal with. Really. Long after the kids fell asleep, we adults huddled by the fire, chilled our backsides and talked about that stuff.

"I feel like such a bad mom sometimes, but I don't know what else to do." Frustrations of balancing a job, raising little ones, feeding a family, and having a life just sort of bubbled up as the topic of the night.

Nods all around. We stared at the whispering flames and let that sink in for a quiet minute—the scent of pine smoke and a soft mountain breeze filled our air as our children slept and we looked to one another to confess that we don't know what the hell we're doing, and life won't put the brakes on to let us get a grip. Parenting is hard, and it's the kind of hard that you have no idea what it's like until you're knee-deep in it. No matter how many books you read.

"I know. It's like, this wasn't supposed to happen to me, I wasn't going to become like my parents. I was going to be awesome. Ugh. Babies are so much easier than kids."

We solved nothing. We heard each other, though. Later we crawled in the sleeping bags for shuteye with the pleasant feeling that we were not alone. 

I'd like to do that more often.


+2 / 0
# Kate 2013-10-25 09:29
Nope, you're not alone. I think somewhere in the last three years of being a parent I gave up things like having a clean house and an organized, in control life, and just decided to be happy.

And I want more campfire time with friends, too! Going to send this story to our camping friends as inspiration!! Thanks! :lol:
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Mark Stephens
0 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2013-10-26 18:14
Oh, er... we clean only when people come over. Another way we've become just like our parents.
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+2 / 0
# Aaron 2013-10-25 21:24
Mark. You hit the nail on the head with this one! I'm so exhausted all the time dealing with just one kindergartner! They have reports to write in kindergarten?? WTH?! I can barely get my son to write his name!
We got thru it though. It won't win any literary awards.
Camping and friends are priceless! Thanks for the story. :)
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Mark Stephens
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# Mark Stephens 2013-10-26 18:11
Oh man, yeah, reports in kindergarten. But hang in there, I can say with some certainty that'll get muuuuuch better. YMMV...
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