Story by

Isaiah Brookshire

December 12th, 2017

It's two in the morning and I'm sitting in a tent with toddler who woke up an hour ago. I'm desperately trying to convince him to go back to sleep, but each time I lay him down and pull up the covers, he starts complaining — loudly. We're separated from our neighbors in the adjacent campsite by a few feet of trees and our tent's thin, nylon walls that are now beading with condensation from a fog that rolled into camp after we went to sleep. Despite the soggy tent and the prospect of stumbling around the campsite in the dark, I'm seriously considering tearing everything down, throwing it in the car, and heading back to our warm beds in Seattle.

The first time my parents took me camping, I was six weeks old. That's how I got it into my head that a camping trip during my son's first summer was a perfectly normal thing to do. After all, he was due in June, which meant we had the whole summer to get one in. It seemed perfectly reasonable; it turned out to be totally delusional. Two summers came and went without camping trips. We wanted to camp, but we were too sleep deprived and too overwhelmed with taking care of a baby at home to make it happen. But late this fall, a stretch of good weather aligned with a stretch of good sleep and we decided to take a chance. I was excited. It was going to be the trip I had dreamed of for a year and a half. It was going to be a moment we'd always remember. It was the start of a family camping tradition.

It was two in the morning and I was seriously considering going home. I don't know how many times I read and reread the few board books we brought with us before my son drifted off, but sleep did come eventually. That gave us a few peaceful hours before he was up again, well before the sun and the rest of the campground.

This time, instead of fighting him, we bundled him up and I whisked him down the path from the campsite to the beach. The two of us walked along the sand. I watched him become captivated by the motion of the waves and the sound they made as they crashed on the smooth pebbles. We both watched as the rising sun turned the fog from blue to gold.

As I walked with him on the beach, I realized that these were the parts of the trip I'd remember long after the exhaustion of the night before faded. I'd remember the way he tried to imitate the sound of the waves. I'd remember how he saw the moon for the first time and couldn't stop talking about it. I'd remember how he fell asleep in my arms beside the campfire.

Being a parent isn't always easy. Making time to be with your family isn't always easy. Getting away from our indoor lives to spend time in nature isn't always easy. In fact, one of the most important lessons I've learned in the outdoors is that very often good things take work and that the work is part of the reward.