The boys, restless from us forcing them to Look Out The Window for too many hours of driving, were deep into the Are we there yet? rounds, annoying us to no end. I wanted them to perk up at the dramatic vistas: the snow capped mountains reflected in alpine lakes, conifer-lined roadways, and bubbling mud-pools. Instead all that stopped the nagging was catching sight of one, then two, then about fifty bison.
Around dusk, we pulled into Madison Campground, a popular campsite, near the western side of the park. We were tired and hungry and cold, and quickly prepared dinner, set up our Kelty tent. Eddie tooled too long with starting a fire so the boys could roast marshmallows, and by the time we burnt those suckers, ate too many and trooped to the toilets, it was time for bed.
Since the weather was slated to drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, we decided to sleep Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style (not sure which of us was Grandpa Joe, or Grandma Georgina) inside the camper.
In the morning, a bison was hanging out by the bathrooms and soon enough our boys were also bored with these massive creatures, only interested in playing in the dirt with the girls at the campsite next door.
As Eddie and I did our morning chores, trying desperately to keep a clean camp to avoid run-ins with bears, it was clear how much we’d gotten used to this life. The movement part was a no-brainer, but the constant packing and unpacking, cooking and cleaning and building and breaking down served to exercise the more primal parts of our brains. We didn’t have to consider the intricacies of balancing a paycheck, instead we aimed at conserving water and packing our camper in the most efficient way for our trek up north to try and find wolves for Kai.
In our constant busy-ness, our kids had to fend more for themselves. At home, they constantly are on us about reading to them and playing with them, joyful experiences we readily partake in, even though we have a sink full of dirty dishes. But here, the clean up had to happen, and it had to happen fast. So unless our kids were hurt, they had to entertain themselves
And in this way, a strange thing happened. They were ok. They saw us working and they got busy playing creatively. Don’t get me wrong, they still asked us to read and play, but they understood that we weren’t staring at our phones or computers telling them to wait. We were taking care of us all in a tangible, easy-to-understand manner. A hearty lesson well worth this long drive.