mom camp out

When my friend Krissy’s daughter turned three, the party invitation said “please no presents, just come and help us celebrate!” Of course, everyone still showed up with gifts. But the Grahams did not. I understand well the desire to have a fun birthday party for your kid without getting a carload of presents to bring home. We really try to limit the amount of stuff our girls own (and the stuff we own, too) so birthdays are tricky.

Because of this understanding, we showed up at the birthday party without a present. What we did have was a really exciting adventure planned though. Less presents and more experiences, that’s where my heart is right now so we invited Krissy and her daughters over for a girls-only camp out in our backyard as Claire’s birthday present. It was pretty epic, if I do say so myself.

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Our mom camp out had smores (sooo many smores), hair chalk, sparklers, glow sticks on the roof (don’t ask), staying up way too late, not a lot of sleep, and pancakes for breakfast. We crammed seven of us plus a dog into a tent and sorta slept. It was late June but uncharacteristically chilly, perfect for sitting around the fire with wrapped in a blanket.

The camp out wasn’t comfortable, and it wasn’t convenient (I had to leave the following night for a trip to Colorado and really could have used more than four hours of sleep), but it was the best time. I think that sums up motherhood best: it’s not comfortable or convenient, but it is the absolute best thing. Sometimes you don’t get to realize that until it’s over, but even through a rough, cold night on a horribly hard cot, I kept thinking how great this was. How great it was for Krissy and me to sit out at the fire talking as our five daughters slept, worn out and filthy in a tent next to us. How great it was that our daughters got to see their moms outside our comfort zone being silly and carefree. How great it was that my dog thought there was room on my tiny cot for his not-tiny body. And how great it was that Chris was around to set up the tent because how you do that is beyond me.

Mom camp out was a success.

Challenge: next time you get a birthday invitation that asks you not to bring presents, actually listen. Dream up an adventure, a movie date, or a backyard camp out that could provide a million more memories and joy than a $20 toy ever could. It might not be convenient, but it will be great, I promise.


  1. Lynne says

    Love this – most of the families I know with small children are fortunate enough to not really NEED more stuff. Experiences are awesome gifts. My husband just took our 6 year old nephew to the Science Center for the day. I know if we had purchased a toy for him, he would have been excited, but really, how many Cars – themed items or Minions stuff does one kid need?

  2. says

    What a great idea! I’ve never done any kind of camp out, but I’d like to try this with some moms when my daughter is a little older. And the gifts, ugh! We always listen when friends say “no gifts please” but I know my family wouldn’t if we requested the same. I always try to get rid of some things before birthdays and Christmas.

    • mary says

      I always get rid of stuff before birthdays and Christmas too–which seems like such a first world problem that it’s kind of embarrassing!

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