Monday, August 24, 2015

That's how it's supposed to be, living young and wild and free

Recently a friend referred to me as a "single parent."  Which kind of took me aback, because I don't think of myself as a single parent.  To me, a single parent is one who is raising children totally on his or her own, without the other parent sharing physical custody or parenting duties.

I share custody/parenting time with the kids' dad, so I don't have to shoulder all of the parenting responsibilities.  And I get regular breaks when I don't have to take care of anyone but myself - it gives me a chance to recharge my batteries, and it makes the time I have with the children that much more special.

I've heard many parents refer to it as the silver lining of divorce.  Because when you have the kids, you're "on" all the time, and you're doing everything.  But when you don't, you can do whatever the fuck you want, and it's kind of glorious, even if "whatever the fuck you want" is simply going to the grocery store by yourself, without little monkeys clamoring for candy or toys or sneaking things into your cart, so that you get home and wonder how you came to be the proud owner of an industrial-sized bottle of Old Spice Body Wash, which you have never used in your life, nor were you even aware that such a thing existed.  

Anyway.  What I'm saying is, a shared custody arrangement can be hard, because I love my kids and I want to see them and talk to them and hug and kiss them every day, but it also provides for precious me-time that many parents never really get.

But this past weekend, I discovered that nothing will make you feel like a single parent like being the only adult on a camping trip with a 5- and 7-year-old.

Because they're too little to put up the tent, not strong enough to carry around a big cooler full of food or to lift three bikes onto a bike rack, not mature enough to build a fire.  They don't drive, so they can't take on any part of the 4 1/2 hour drive to Steamboat Lake State Park. And they don't have jobs, so they can't buy any of the stuff that needs to be purchased.  They're too short to pack the car.

They don't handle injuries well, so when they fall off their bikes within 30 minutes of arriving at the camp site and end up with wicked road rash on their elbows and knees, they can't calmly wash the wounds and apply an appropriately-sized band-aid.

But what they are great at is the important stuff.  

They are great at being enthusiastic about everything they see, from the horses at the local roadhouse/general store/recreational establishment to the chipmunks at the campsite to the beautiful mountains and lakes.  

I love how the horse in the back totally photobombed the horse on the left
They are amazing at enjoying a campfire, especially the part when you roast marshmallows.

That's a nice looking fire, if I do say so my damn self.
They are incredible at finding the joy in riding around the lake, or digging in the mushy sand at what they charmingly came to refer to as "Diarrhea Beach," because they could throw around lumps of wet sand that reminded them of diarrhea.  They appreciate the natural beauty of Hahn's Peak, which they took to calling "Boob Mountain."  

We like to keep it classy.

Diarrhea Beach
Josie is killing it on her bike these days.
Boob Mountain.
They love to learn about new things, so they were happy to attend the little presentations that the park rangers gave every day on various topics - on Saturday night we learned all about beavers, and on Sunday we learned about hummingbirds.  They were thrilled to go on a 10 minute pony ride, and to stay an extra 15 minutes afterwards kissing and hugging their horses.

They have a beautiful sense of wonder.  My favorite part of the weekend was at about 3 in the morning on our first night there.  Josie woke up and said she had to pee.

"Go ahead, sweetie.  You can just go and pee outside behind the tent."

She came back a minute later and said, "Mama, the stars are so beautiful.  You should come out and see them."

So I got up and went outside and sat in a camp chair with her on my lap.  I hugged her close and we looked at the incredible sky.

"There must be a trillion stars up there, huh, Mama?"

"At least."

After a little while, we were tired and cold, and went back to bed.  As she lay next to me, she reached an arm out and put her hand on my cheek.

"I love you, Mama."

"I love you too, sweet girl."

So yes, I'm tired from all the work that went into the weekend, and the long drive, and the mountains of laundry that I'm still plowing through.  But I had a fantastic time with my fantastic children, and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

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