The Last Trip of Summer

We’ve been back a week from our last trip of the summer and school feels like it’s right around the corner and a month away all at once. In reality the start of school is only one week off, and I think Keana and Maia are both nervous and excited. It’s been good to remember how I felt as a kid the week before school in an effort to allow Keana and Maia to just have their feelings about it without me, as an adult, trying to overwrite how they feel or what they’re thinking about it. When I catch myself doing that, my intention is to comfort them, but I realize that it’s really just telling them they shouldn’t feel how they feel; it’s hard. Anyway, there’s sure to be big changes happening around here soon as we settle into the new schedule.

So, our last trip, the annual family campout. We hadn’t been for a couple years—never with three kids—but we felt confident we could handle it since we had just been camping two weeks before. What I found out quickly was that I hadn’t quite prepared myself for the differences in camping with just my immediate family and camping with a bunch of people we know and my immediate family. What I found was that Maia and (especially) Keana didn’t want to be in our “boring” camp, but wanted to be just about anywhere else. They especially wanted to be over at Tia’s camp with their cousin Olivia. There were times when Olivia wanted to be at our camp, since she and Aliya like to play, but mostly, they wanted to be somewhere else. I struggled with setting appropriate boundaries and letting them explore and have freedom. I was also worried about them being a burden on other people, but eventually realized it was up to those other people to let us know if that was happening. Also, I wanted to be with my kids, but realized that I wasn’t as fun as some of the other adults since I had to be cooking, cleaning up, doing “camp stuff” much of the time. I tried to incorporate the kids with that, but if you’re 7 and the choice is to play or do dishes, well, that isn’t much of a choice.

In the end I had to make it clear to the kids that they had to be careful when they ran off into the forest, that they had to let me know where they were going and plan for when they would be coming back, and then just try and let a bunch of stuff go. Luckily that did happen—the letting go of some stuff and agreeing on some boundaries—and we were able to have some good days down by the river and enjoy time around the campfire. They especially enjoyed a story I was making up, in chapters, about Monkey, Tiger, and Dragon. Keana wanted a ghost story, but I didn’t want to scare them, so I told a story of a tiger’s ghost that came back to an island to comfort her friends Monkey and Dragon (a Komodo Dragon). Then it jumped back in time to when they were babies together and all their adventures on the island. That was typically followed by us all lying in the tent together, Aliya nursing, and me singing a bunch of songs. The favorites were Hotel California, Message in a Bottle, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, The Wind Song, and Graceland. Once the kids were asleep, Sarah and I were able to sneak out, back to the campfire, and have a little time to ourselves. At this campout, many people stay up late with didgeridoos, drums, guitars, and/or singing punctuating the distant sounds of conversations along with the sounds of people wandering between camps. Not wanting to leave our kids unattended though, we stayed at our camp at night, which was fine with me (especially since I knew waking children with full bladders and hungry stomachs were not far off).

Keana is continuing to really want to be independent and try new things out, especially social situations, so the campout proved a ripe testing ground. There were more than a couple times that she rolled her eyes when I told her to be careful as she tromped off socialize with other campers. Maia was a little more cautious but was happy to follow Keana anywhere. Then there was Aliya. We hadn’t been there more than 30 minutes and she took off up the meadow, alone, waving and shouting, “Bye-bye Apa, bye-bye Ama!” She too, had no trouble running off, following Keana’s lead. Her experience with two older sisters also positions her to be more of the mischief-leader when she and Olivia hang out. She calls Olivia “La-la” and Olivia calls her “Aweela”, and there are already some pretty entertaining tales of “The Adventures of La-La and Aweela”. Add a forest, a stream, some marshmallows, and fire to that and you have your entertainment for the day.

Last week I returned to work and we began to recover from this trip, but it was tough. It took all week for sure, and even now I’m feeling kind of worked. We realized though it was also because we were still recovering from dealing with sick cats in between our first camping trip and this last one. And then, of course, we’re dealing with the reality of summer ending and school beginning. It’s been 108/109 for a few days now, not dropping below 80 at night, and that too takes its toll. I have a lot I want to write about the kids themselves—their growth and development and all the fun/cute things they’re doing—but that’ll have to wait.

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