Ok, FF2L peeps. It's not often I feature a guest writer on the FF2L blog, especially a man-type guest writer. But this? This had to happen. Josh and I have been friends for 19 (ouch!) years, since my freshman year of high school. He recently had an experience that I begged him to write about, and he graciously did just that. It's about as real-life-parenting as you can get! Josh and his beautiful wife, Rachel, along with their four sons and cherry-on-top daughter, live outside of Atlanta, GA. You're welcome for what you're about to read. Prepare to laugh. A lot.
If you've been to church anytime in the last decade, you probably know what I mean when I say that there's usually a bit of down time between you finding a seat and the praise and worship music starting. Most churches flash announcements across their screens during this time to try and make churchgoers aware of upcoming events.
This very thing happened one fateful fall Sunday in 2014 at a church our family had been visiting for a couple of months. The announcement?
My wife gave me a nudge, pointed to the screen, and immediately said I should go with our two big boys (who were then five and seven years old). I kindly reply, “Hmmm...maybe,” which, in my mind, was the end of it.
A few things you should know about me: I don’t camp. I don’t even glamp. I stay in hotels, or, if I must “camp,” you'll find me in a nice cabin with a full kitchen, a hot tub, and a game room. We will roast marshmallows over the fire pit (chopped wood provided as part of the rental agreement), then go inside and take a shower with hot water. Finally, we'll turn up the AC and get into a nice king-sized bed with extra pillows.
Now, back to my "maybe."
It became obvious that my “maybe” was perceived by my wife to be a full-fledged commitment to go camping with the boys. I grudgingly thought, “How bad could it be,” and agreed to take them. The boys were ecstatic because they, like their mother, don’t really understand or remember what real camping is like. I signed us up on the church website and promptly put it out of my mind.
A couple of weeks later we were at a small group meeting at the home of the children's ministry pastor, and he laughingly told me about a conversation he had with one little boy about the camping trip:
Pastor: “Yeah, you should have seen his face when I told him about the bathrooms!”
Me: “Ha! What about the bathrooms?”
Pastor: “That there aren’t any! The boy thought it was funny and he didn’t believe me. Man will he be surprised when we get there! Hahaha!”
Me (nervously): “Hahaha!”
"Crap," I thought to myself (pun intended), I knew I hated camping for a reason!
Something else you should know about me: I have a "thing" about bathrooms. I'm what you might call bathroom-particular. I hate new bathrooms. I like MY bathroom. I hate people talking to me in the bathroom. After 14 years with my wife I still don’t talk to her when I’m in the bathroom. Leave. Me. Alone. When we were house shopping I wouldn’t even consider a house that didn’t have a separate room for the toilet in the master bathroom.
We lived in Honduras for a few months back in 2002, and the missionary we lived with told us the story of “The Gringo That Fell Into The Hole." Let me just say, it only added to my bathroom particular-ness, and also scarred me for life. The only way I can adequately describe to you what the story entailed would be to direct you to the movie "Slumdog Millionaire."
A few days after hearing the Gringo-in-the-Hole story, we went on a week-long outreach into the mountains of Honduras, and I am fairly certain that I didn’t go to the bathroom for a full seven days due to the fact that I had just heard this story and had never learned, nor desired to learn, how to lean against a tree in the woods.
Now that you have a little insight into my bathroom-particular-ness, let's get back to camping. I packed my free tent, the sleeping bags I had owned since I was 10, and some flash lights. We left for the campsite, and an hour later (plus an extra 30 minutes of driving back and forth because we were lost and missed the turn) we arrived. When we got to the site I began to set up the tent, which took a *little* while since I had never technically set up a tent before. As I neared the end of my work, I started to feel a small sense of accomplishment. Then I looked up and gazed at the other “tents” that were around me. Think Beverly Hillbillies, and you'll have a good picture of me amongst avid campers, hunters, fishermen, etc.
But hey, we were there! Camp was set! Bonding was about to ensue! And for the better part of three hours, father-son bliss was had by all.
When it was snack time, my five-year-old opted not to have anything because he didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom in the woods. A man after my own heart. The smell of hotdogs, however, got to him and he caved. I'm thinking you can probably guess what transpired next.
One hour later, “it” hit the proverbial fan. The chaos that ensued would probably have faded from my mind by now like a bad nightmare but, unfortunately for me, I have a string of text messages with my wife to remind me of the stress that almost took me under. I think they explain what went down better than I ever could. I apologize for some of the...uh...colorful language (I blurred it out as best I could). To say the least, it was a great #DadFail // #HusbandFail kinda moment. (Rachel's messages are grey; mine are blue.)
If you paused to wonder, "Bright green poop? What is that all about," no, my son doesn't have horrible digestive issues. Let me share something else I learned from this awesome camping experience. If a person eats black icing, said person will poop neon green for the better part of two days. We had recently purchased a Halloween gingerbread house, and while we failed to get it to stay together, we did enjoy eating it. My five-year-old especially enjoyed the icing.
Basically, my camping experience was a smashing success. Not. I still hate camping. In fact, I hate camping even more than I did before this horrible event. But I do love my sons, and I love my wife, and sometimes you do the things you hate the worst for the people you love the most. I love my people, and they better never question that, especially after the camping catastrophe.
It wasn't all bad, either. Here are our last text messages, so you can see that it's possible to find good in every situation:
I mean, does parenting get any more real than THAT?! I love Josh's story, and I love how NOT glamorous parenting is. We do the hard stuff, the nitty-gritty-dirty stuff, not because we like it, but because we love our people. We don't always do the parenting thing with grace, and sometimes we might let out a string of *colorful* language when we're in the middle of a crappy (pun intended) situation. The great news is that there's grace for us in those moments. And, if we're honest, those are the moments we remember most as the years go by. The good moments are meaningful, to be sure, but the war stories are even better. Write them down. Etch them in stone. They'll keep your family laughing for decades to come. Also, save those text messages. They're pure gold. HA!
Feel free to laugh!
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