So I’m that guy, mostly enjoying every minute of his Son’s first Fathers and Sons camping trip, realizing that his family is a miracle.
My family has this tradition. In the beginning of the summer, our church has what are called “Father and Sons camp outs”. I have memories of these events from the age of about five years old. In Idaho, the first part of the summer can either be a little hot or very cold and most of my memories involve the very cold.
One year, I think I was about eight years old. I woke up in our tent at midnight with a fever. It was raining outside and very cold. My Dad ended up leaving my brother with a friend and driving me home in the rain. I remember the trip home with the heater on high the whole way. I remember it being a great feeling to be warm again.
I have memories of sitting around the campfires, listening to stories. Whether they were funny or scary, I liked them all. The food was always good, and there were always friends to play with.
I have memories of many motorcycle rides on these outings. Large groups of friends and neighbors exploring the local mountain trails and having a good time.
All in all, some of my favorite memories came from these trips with my Dad and brothers. I have always looked forward to the day when I could bring my own son on a Father and Sons campout. Many years, as my wife and I struggled with infertility, this was one of my perceived losses.
The day finally arrived, last week I was able to take my four year old son on the camping trip. Although, for us it is not really a “camping trip,” we would rather spend the night in a warm hotel room. Remember, all my negative memories of the trips involved the actual camping aspect. There is a hotel near the usual site for the outing, so we opted to enjoy all the parts we like and sleep in a comfortable, warm room.
Four years old is too young to recognize the grandeur that is, “The great outdoors.” Max wasn’t very impressed at first and went into a wailing fit when he accidentally stepped in water and got his shoes wet. I watched as the other boys, who were obviously “farm kids,” ran around in their cowboy boots, wranglers, and snap front western shirts, running circles around my boy. They would fall down and bounce back up ready to do it all again. Then there was my boy, who wearing the Crocs his mom had bought him, was obviously at a disadvantage. Although he loves to run and play, he can be a little sensitive to impacts with the ground and does not tend to react with the same enthusiasm the other boys had when they fell. I was also a little conscious of the fact that I was the only father watching the pack of boys as they ran to and from each point of interest.
After about two hours of running, jumping, fishing, sliding, falling, and playing, my son had had enough. It was an hour past his dinner time and the food would not be ready anytime soon. He was grumpy and tired and not in the mood to wait around for dinner. Once again I decided to forgo tradition. I loaded him and his 8 year old cousin into the truck and drove 5 miles to a roadside pizza restaurant.
It was one of the high points of the trip, as I sat across the table with them eating pizza. We talked and joked around and had a great time. The pizza and soda pops did the trick. After a few minutes everyone was in a better mood and ready to go back to the campsite and finish out the evening.
That night in the hotel room my son could not stop talking, he was so excited to be “camping.” He finally talked himself to sleep and I was able to get some sleep too.
When I woke up in the morning, I had a few minutes to just look at him before he woke up. His face was so perfect and peaceful. I thought about how five years ago I had no hope of ever having a son to take on the Fathers and Sons outing. After dealing with infertility and spending so much time waiting for an adoption opportunity, it seemed hopeless that we would be able to grow our family. But there he was, quietly sleeping next to me. He is truly a miracle.
It was at that moment I came to a conclusion. Even though these outings don’t always turn out the way we think they should, the important part is spending time one on one with these kids. The rest of the day was cold and we went home early, but it was a great experience for my son. It was his first of many memories to come through spending time with his dad. I can’t wait for the next one.