Up until this past weekend, my family and I have gone camping with other families when we go. This time, though, it was just the four of us. My boys were forced to redefine what camping meant to them. Before, camping meant spending time with friends generally their age. It meant more than being just with the people with whom they live and spend their daily lives.
When they found out this trip would be “just the four of us,” both boys seemed at a loss of what we would do to fill the time. In other words, they were certain it would be boring. When I saw their disappointment and the anticipation and excitement drain from their eyes, a determination rose up in me to show them how to choose to make a disappointing situation become a memorable experience.
I don’t like it. I don’t eat much of it usually. Yet, so many of life’s pleasures have it. At some point, I simply came to terms with the idea that letting my kids have s’mores with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and chewy chocolate chip cookies wasn’t being a bad mom. It’s creating a memory that will span generations. Besides, it’s not like we have them for breakfast. (Okay, maybe cookies once, but that’s it.) The point is that having treats like this goes a long way in making the trip memorable for my family simply because it was special and not something they normally get.
Making popcorn over a campfire in a coffee can. Cooking almost all our meals over the fire. Watching things melt. Yes, we probably sometimes broke the rule to not play with fire, but at least it was contained. All campers are captivated by this element around which all campsites center. As we sat there at various times during the day and every evening, we constantly ended up“fanning the flames” of connection in our family in some way. (Check out 1 Timothy 1:3-7 for added emphasis on the importance of family connection.)We remembered a lot of fun times, we joked, we talked about when my husband and I were kids, and we even talked about books and movies. And at some point we got to words that might not have ever been said in the company of others or even at the dinner table at home. Family words spoken in the dark as we watched the fire.
We spent a lot of time just sitting and relaxing or reading, but a large part of this trip was about activity. Most of this activity necessitated family interaction. Corn hole. Bike rides. Walks. Swimming. We competed with each other, and we even trash talked some. Movement together as a family leads to compromise, conflict resolution, preferring and encouraging. At home, we can find separate corners of the house when irritations arise. While camping, there’s no real getting away from one another. Camping can promote much-needed interaction as a family, especially in the absence of electronics (which I highly recommend, by the way).
Disappointing to Memorable
Seems silly to bring sugar, fire and movement together in a post reflecting on my weekend, but as I think about this past weekend and what we did to create memories, I realize that these three elements really came together to allow us to be fully present as individuals in a family unit. They helped create an atmosphere that allowed each one of us to enjoy every moment together.
Which brings me full circle to turning disappointing into memorable. The elements that seem essential for that recipe include being fully present, doing something special, creating the right atmosphere, moving together and preferring one another. Sure, there are tons of ways to create memories as a family, but don’t they all really contain the same ingredients? What ingredients am I missing?