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Parenting Perspectives: Unplugged weekend refreshing for family

Our family recently took part in what has become a lovely autumn tradition at Camp Wilderness Boy Scout Camp near Park Rapids, Minn. Thanks to friends who extend a yearly invitation to our brood of seven, we joined their clan of six in the camp's...

Our family recently took part in what has become a lovely autumn tradition at Camp Wilderness Boy Scout Camp near Park Rapids, Minn.

Thanks to friends who extend a yearly invitation to our brood of seven, we joined their clan of six in the camp's off-season for a weekend of relatively unplugged relaxation and fun.

After two hours of travel we arrived with mounds of bedding, food and other supplies. And in customary fashion, the royal welcoming committee ushered us into the sparse but roomy cabin with its plethora of taxidermy wall-hangings. It was as if we'd never left.

Soon, board games began clattering on long tables. While Russian tea and hot cocoa were poured, the youngest began their toy-car races and bouncy-ball dueling on hard-tiled floors.

Eventually, novels emerged from backpacks. Normal bedtime hours flew out windows into the crisp night. The cabin hummed with (gasp!) face-to-face conversation.

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Who would guess what it took to reach this scene of blissful serenity?

Only a few days before our outing, the kids had begun oozing drama and defiance, complaining about once-in-a-lifetime events they'd miss if forced away from their beloved city routines.

What about that much-anticipated sleepover or the TV special scheduled for the exact same weekend?!

Yeah, what about it?

In response, I struck the pose I've come to wear well; that "mean" ol' mama, tough-love parental pose. "Sorry, dears, but it's Camp Wilderness or bust," I said, snooping out extra blankets from the closet. "Bags packed, kiddos!"

It was as if amnesia had stolen every last memory of last year's expedition.

But with that first muddy clomp upon the cabin porch, memories were restored - and I was redeemed.

On day two of this year's outing, we ventured into town to visit a pumpkin patch and an old-fashioned candy shop. The shop was filled with endless bins of wrapped candy and rows of fresh fudge, caramels and bonbons.

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Giggles, not grumbles, came as our children filled paper bags and skipped out the door with sweet treasures in hand. Next, it was back to the cabin for homemade pizza, caramel corn and a cheery standoff of double solitaire.

Why, I wondered, does it take so much to pull our families away from the plugged-in world? Do we not realize how the encumbered busyness and static have ensnared us?

I've learned not to be fooled by the snorting. Kids might be programmed to believe the plugged-in world is the only way, but all they really want is connections - with one another, and yes, with us.

If the chance to unplug your family and tune into nature and one another comes, let the gnashing of teeth roll away. Eventually, the amnesia of the last outing will wear off and they'll be asking, "Are we almost there?!"

Salonen works as a freelance writer and children's author in Fargo, where she and her husband, Troy, are the parents of five children. She also has a blog at www.areavoices.com/peacegarden

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