The First Night Was Awful

Last weekend we went camping with our toddlers and some close friends.

I’m really glad we did it…

…And I don’t think we’ll do it again any time soon.


My three-year old daughter did pretty well.

It’s my son who was the challenge. At 21 months, he is in that stage where he climbs up on the picnic table, grabs the ketchup bottle and throws it into the dirt.

And, he doesn’t heed any warnings…

…so you have to watch him every minute.

He simply does what he wants, 24×7.

I call him the “whirling dervish.”

I’m hoping this is a phase.

Really hoping…

No where was his challenging behavior on display more than when it was time for bed that first night. My husband and I had imagined putting the kids to bed and then settling down for a nice, peaceful evening in front of the campfire.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

We bundled the kids in layers for warmth and then into their sleeping bags, closed up the tent and prepared for our campfire.

Within a minute, we saw flashlights blazing in the tent and heard, “Mommy? Daddy? Is that you? When are you coming in?”

With a sigh, we quickly got ready for bed and climbed in with the kiddos. This was about 9pm, already way past their bedtime (the evening routine takes longer in the woods).

Oh well, we figured, at least we’ll get a good night’s sleep.


For the next two hours, my son treated the tent like his personal bouncy house.

If I had been watching Funniest Home Videos, I would have been laughing hysterically. Instead, I was exhausted, cold and ready for rest. Having my son work himself into a frenzy, laughing, getting super sweaty and finally starting to wheeze from all the exertion was a particularly frustrating situation. I moved our daughter to the far side of the tent so that I could shield her with my body from my spinning son.

My husband and I took turns restraining my son in a cuddle to see if we could get him to settle down and fall asleep, but he just cried hysterically. When I held him long enough I could see him wipe his eyes from exhaustion.

I’m not sure, but my guess is that he is so used to sleeping within the confines of his crib that having the run of the tent was just too much. He was drunk with freedom.

After two hours, my daughter had collapsed into sleep but my husband and I were no closer to calming the sweaty, wheezing jumping bean.

In desperation, I took him out of the tent, put him in his car seat and climbed into the tailgate of the van with our sleeping bags. Within a minute, I heard snores.


I could put up with the cramped sleeping quarters of the tailgate if it meant that my son would finally breathe normally and get some rest.

The next evening, I took a different approach.

I loaded him into the car and took him on a short drive. When he fell asleep, I transferred him to the tailgate where he slept peacefully with me through the night.

The final night, we took both kids on a drive and then transferred them, my son to the back of the van and my daughter to the tent.

Why am I telling you this?

Because this experience is not unlike what we all experience when we endeavor to make change in our lives.

We have a vision about how things will go. We craft a goal, we begin to make change….

….And then things go awry.

Maria Nemeth, founder of the Academy of Coaching Excellence, calls these experiences “Oh S#%@! Moments.” I like this term, as that is how it feels.

When we try something new, we encounter obstacles and it can feel incredibly frustrating.

That first night my fundamental thought was, “This was a bad idea. Why did I think we could do this?” I lay in my sleeping bag, hearing my son wheeze as he whirled around and thought, “How are we going to get through this night?” An incredible sense of hopelessness overcame me.

And then, slowly, I began to figure out how I was going to solve the problem.

I began to adapt to the circumstances I was faced with. I came to terms with the fact that he was not going to fall asleep in the tent, no matter how long I waited him out.

And then I moved him to the car, and the problem was solved.

I grew smarter the next night, anticipating my son’s needs and adapting my behavior.

And we got through it.

We accomplished the goal of going camping with our kids.

It didn’t go the way I thought it would, but we made it through.

And, now that we’ve been back home for a week and all the laundry is finally done, I’m thinking that it was a pretty memorable experience.

When I look at the photos, I realize that we were camping in a very beautiful spot.

I couldn’t see that at the time.

But I can see the beauty of the spot, and the experience, now.

I’m wondering:

  • Where have you encountered Oh S#%@! Moments when tackling an important goal?
  • How have you tapped into your inner resourcefulness to get through it?
  • How are you the better off for having done this?

I would love to hear your comments.



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One Response to The First Night Was Awful

  1. Jane Littau July 26, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    Loved reading this, although I’m sorry the first night was so hard! Resilience often eludes me, so I appreciate the encouragement your post offers. Hugs to you and yours!

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