Whether you’re facing a big bear with claws and fangs, or just walking down a cold, rocky river with the water up to your waist for the first time as a 4-year-old, you still have to face fear.
Facing fear is a part of growing up.
I watched my oldest grow up recently when he breached the unknown and faced fear head on. He did this on the annual family camping trip, affectionately known as – The Camping Trip.
Or Campamania. Males only, non-negotiable.
I believe the count was up close to 50 this year. 50 cousins, uncles, nephews, fathers and sons made appearances over the course of the weekend as a long standing tradition marched on; going on 30+ years now. This is definitely one of my favorite weekends of the year and even more so now that my oldest son has been coming with me for the past 2 years.
He was half passenger half driver last year, everything so new and different, but this year he was all driver.
He ran and played with cousins that he only sees a handful of times per year like they were his best friends. He helped me set up our tent and unload the car. He ate food he never ate before. He played his first game of kickball. He slept through the relentless, morning sun that turned the temperature in our tent up to seemingly 100 degrees without batting an eye. He conquered the river on our annual River Walk, and on this walk he even climbed a rock pile all by himself. The significant part of that climb being that the pile that was probably close 300ft away from the group.
Our oldest has never been a “wanderer,” so for me this flash of independence in the name of conquering a rock pile was pretty special. For perspective, when I write this article in a few years after the experience of bringing the youngest one on The Camping Trip, I will probably be bragging about the moments in which he stayed close to the group, not away from it.
The next “growns up” (a line from Swingers in case you are not familiar) moment came shortly after The Camping Trip when we celebrated my birthday. As many of you know, once you hit your 30s birthdays it can be hit or miss. Either you’re in the “these are the best years of my life” mood or wallowing around in “where have my 20s gone?”-ville.
My mood options were open to start the day, but after a few early well wishes from loved ones and friends, I started leaning towards, “best years of my life.”
Then came in my oldest son.
Can we talk honestly for a moment and say that for the most part kids at this age (and definitely younger) are pretty selfish? “No, that’s my toy,” and, “I don’t want to eat this,” and “why do I have to do that?” are all examples of the little bubble these kids live in before they are introduced to things like homework, curfews and inevitably…taxes.
But when I got home on my birthday it was 100%, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.”
He wanted me to open my gifts practically before my keys were even on the hook and was nearly jumping out of his sneakers when I sat down to do so. He watched intently as I opened every card and every gift, especially those that were his own.
At this point, for me, his cards are the best part. He can write his name almost in a straight line, and he can do the same for his brother’s. His “art work” is targeted and specific, just like his dad, and he even has his favorite colors he uses. Lately, New Jersey Devils red has been making a strong showing to my enormous pleasure.
From gift opening to dinner to bedtime routine afterwards, I truly got the sense that he was into me first and foremost the whole time.
That is not only tear jerking, it’s growns up.
This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 6/30/12.