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Roxane B. Salonen, Published June 17 2013

Parenting Perspectives: ‘Roughing it’ looks different for every family

“How about a dessert menu?” the kind waitress asked.

The seven of us were just finishing our dinner at the Douglas Inn Lodge at Itasca State Park.

Our family had spent three days “roughing it,” and this, our last full meal of the trip, was a special treat to end our time together before summertime scattering.

“I think we’re good for now,” I said. “We’re having s’mores in a bit.”

“Well that sounds nice,” she said before turning to retrieve our tab.

Even as our dessert plans left my lips, I wondered if the picture forming in her mind might be different than reality. She confirmed that upon her return.

“So you’re over at the campgrounds then?” she said, laying down the bill.

“Well, we’re actually staying in the suites,” I said. “The s’mores I mentioned, they’ll be the microwave version.”

“Ah, well, that’ll still be nice,” she said. “Have fun!”

Years earlier, I’d have seen this moment as defeat, but no more.

As a longtime Girl Scout, I’d spent many summers growing up fashioning campfires through building extravagant fire-starters, beginning with tinder and kindling, then adding the thicker sticks and logs.

I’ve roughed it for real in the Beartooth Mountains in western Montana and various spots throughout northeast Montana for day camps and overnights.

I was still just a Brownie Scout when our brave leader brought our troop to a quiet spot several miles out near the river, where we popped pup tents, watched beavers building dams and woke to the sounds of meadowlarks.

I dreamed of this life continuing after marrying, but soon learned my husband prefers his air-conditioned space to nature’s air-fresheners. But as our family grew and friends shared of their camping adventures, I held onto hope we, too, could become a camping family.

In time, however, I began to feel daunted by the thought of acquiring what we’d need, not to mention the organizing involved.

When Itasca came onto the horizon, we discovered “cabins” in the park that are, essentially, woodland suites complete with television, stove and fridge, but no campfire access.

Well, we can start here, I thought, and in time, make our way to the campgrounds, where we’ll cook over an open fire every day and spend evenings bonding around the embers.

But that vision, too, has faded as I’ve reckoned with what might be “roughing it” to one family might look completely different to another.

For us, roughing it has come to mean seven people in a small space, each racing for the only bathroom in the hopes of having a warm shower. It’s meant seven different opinions on how we should spend our time together, and an occasional victory when, for a couple hours, we’re all gathered around the “living room” making fools of ourselves playing charades.

Having a larger family has meant making many sacrifices, including letting go of my dream of curling up in tents together, and making adjustments based not on my impractical imagining but our collective reality.

It’s a good lesson to learn – seeing the possible rather than fighting against the improbable.

It might not be what I’d hoped for all those years back, but I’ve come to find I like the microwave version of s’mores, and, dare I say it, maybe even prefer them.

Besides, there’s nothing saying you can’t break out into a rousing rendition of “Boom-Boom Ain’t It Great to be Crazy,” no matter when inspiration – if not a match – strikes.

Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and her husband, Troy, parent five children. She blogs on family life at http://peacegardenmama.

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