when you plan a camping trip with a two year old and you wake up and it's cloudy and raining a steady downpour you can't just tell him to forget about it. you can't say never mind to a topic you have been talking about all week. getting him excited for a night in the woods and then waking up the morning of and saying we can't go.
"it's raining, finn. we might not be able to camp today" i said to him in the kitchen holding him up so he could look out the window
"yea! we can. we can. it's fine, dude." he replied.
we pack up the car, we attach the popup, i bring raincoats and rain boots and extra clothes.
we get five minutes away from camp and the rain stops. the sky starts to clear. we pull into the welcome building and get our paper to find the available campsites. finn gets excited as we tell him we have to pick where we are going to set up camp.
"this one!" he yells out the window. "no, this one!" he says as we keep driving.
we pick number 22. on the edge of the lake and away from other campers.
finn climbs out of his seat and immediately says he wants to help. he has to be next to james the whole time, watching every move, asking him if he is okay, cheering him on as james raises the camper up. "go dada go! go dada go!"
i watch from the picnic table smiling. i take note a change in finn from the last time we camped at the beginning of the summer. he's more independent, he understands the drill and he likes it. he really does. he's excited to be outside and in the woods and away from our everyday routine. he's following james around with a smile on his face. he starts collecting rocks and twigs. he uses a little shovel to dig in the dirt. he's keeping himself busy on his own with just the woods around us.
we get our three camp chairs out. we start on the fire. we make grilled cheese in our hobo pie maker over the fire. we roast marshmallows. lots of marshmallows. probably finn's very favorite thing about camping. we go to the playground and find the swings. we find a trail down to the lake and finn and james stand together on a flat rock casting into the gold water, the sun setting behind the trees.
i watch finn and james from the bank. finn standing so still and calm. he's not antsy or rushing. two months ago he would have been trying to climb on the rocks, he would have been throwing rocks into the water, he would have been trying to put his feet and hands in to feel it.
now i watch finn standing on the rock. he is content and steady with each cast. "he's getting it" i think to myself.
"lets go back to camp" finn says after some time and we agree.
"reel it in nice and slow" james says, "maybe you'll catch one on the way in"
finn listens and starts reeling slowly, his little hands moving his reel as the three of us watch his bobber getting closer and closer until all of a sudden it disappears.
"finn! you've got one! keep reeling" james says with excitement.
we're all laughing now and finn is fighting the fish to the shore. james is holding finn's tiny body still on the rock and he just keeps reeling. he's working hard and we aren't helping him. when he gets close enough james picks up the line and we see a little bluegill on the end. finn's first catch. his first fish. all by himself.
we go back to camp and the three of us sit by the fire. two months ago finn would have been walking around looking for something to do. he might have been a little bored and tired. this time he sits and watches the flames. he talks about the fish and his new bobber. he talks about the wood burning. he talks about the tree on the other side of the creek without leaves. he asks about raccoons. he asks about the boats we hear, speeding across the lake at sunset. he asks for one more marshmallow.