The Backslide Hurts

the sun sets across a river


Hot Springs, South Dakota, a tiny town of about 3,700 and the last place I remember seeing my kids outside without a screen attached to their hands. I know, I know, Nature Deficit Disorder!

It’s setting in, with the same mannerisms as wasps swarming to a new hive inside of your garage. The backslide was bound to happen, I just thought it would take longer than a month and a half! So here is my newest attempt at fighting screens, and growing my family in the beautiful wide world we would otherwise be completely oblivious to.

We rolled into a phenomenal week at the Palmer Gulch KOA resort at Mount Rushmore. While my three were less than amused with Mount Rushmore, we spent literally sunup to sundown outside at the KOA and only saw the inside of the RV to sleep. It was a dream. My kids were exhausted, but that magical kind of exhausted that only comes from being outside, swimming, chasing bugs and making friends. They spent hours watching three baby robins in a nest and even attempted to feed them. They made lifelong friends and perfected the butterfly capture. My heart sang so loud I didn’t even notice how sunburnt I was getting.

After a magical week and no real plans until later in June, we needed somewhere to go, and by complete accident, stumbled upon Hot Springs South Dakota. I was pleasantly surprised at the fun my kids and I had this week. We spent hours searching the creek side for shells and categorizing them.

We explored the local museum, touching everything and watching the town’s history come to life. We spent hours playing hide and seek in one of the coolest wooden playsets I’ve ever found. We searched larger than life bones of Mammoth’s for explanations of where they had been and how they all ended up in this tiny town in South Dakota.

a wooden playground in Hot Springs, South Dakota

The drive throughout South Dakota is where the NDD strikes, the screens were on to distract us all from the fact that our AC had gone out in the RV while we drove. We’re driving a rolling sauna and wondering when the heat wave will end. I was beginning to get into a little bit of a funk, hearing my family begin to beg for normalcy.

“When can we buy a house? Can we go to school? Mom, I miss having friends for more than a week!”

My husband, who is also growing increasingly tired of the closeness the RV provides, has not been shy about his desire to find somewhere to settle down and fast. I half heartedly acknowledge these requests and empathize. But in all reality I have zero desire to settle anywhere, the housing market is in a very unrealistic bubble and I just can’t think of anywhere I want to be tied to right now. I want to be tied to the road, I love the zebra stripes from where my feet live in my Birkenstocks, to have the freedom to live everywhere and nowhere at the same time, to decided “well this was fun, but it is no longer serving my soul, so here we go.”

I want the flexibility to extend a stay with family, because we haven’t seen them in years and it feels so good for everyone to be together. I don’t want to be tied down to the responsibility of work, school and playdates and everything else that comes along with the fast pace of real life. Not one part of me misses it, or wants to go back to it. I love my family in this bubble of the RV, close together, growing our relationships and learning from one another.

The pureness of life that I have been reminded of and am relearning from my children has been priceless. And the ability to slow down with them, I mean to actually slow down, I thought that was a gift I had been given during quarantine.

But clearly the day to day of that was faster than I had even realized. But this, this lifestyle is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It truly is magical. Why would I ever want anything different for my family? I don’t miss the constraints of life and time off, and the exhaustion of running to and from all week only to run around more during the weekend.

No, I can’t and I won’t.

My family is suffering a backslide of NDD and it’s my job to see to it that Nature wins this one. So regardless of how much crying begins, I am going to drag my feet and see to it that we stay on the road. We all agreed to one year and by George I will have one year, then if it turns into the rest of our lives so be it. Heading into the Northern Woods of Minnesota turned out to be exactly the refresher course my family needed.

8 Frogs, 12 tadpoles, 2 sunnies, 4 crawfish, and 3 ear to ear smiles. These numbers represent the volume of singing growing in my soul watching my children race from dock to dock with their new friends to collect anything that moved on the shores of Rainy Lake. Convincing the kids they couldn’t keep any of them was a different sort of volume. It was exactly the kind of Lakeside debacle I had dreamed of during this trip. 

small hands hold an even smaller toad

I spent a fortune renting a fishing boat for the week so we could enjoy more than just the shores of the lake.

While we haven’t caught any real fish yet, the time out on the boat with a beer in my hand has been the exact reminder I needed of why we need to keep going. My kids are trying new things, learning how to make friends with everyone they meet, and finally, finally using their imaginations for something more than to copy a tv show they watched. I’ve listened in as they were on safari capturing animals who were wounded and needed to be saved, or how they are scientists cataloging rare and never before found species of frogs, while in search of the elusive turtle. 

Surely they will look back on this time with the same magical memories I will, and hopefully a part of them will decide that maybe I’m not crazy after all, but instead a mom who wants nature for her children, a mom who wanted to shield them from the absolute insanity of our country right now, a mom who wanted to maintain their innocence just a little longer and let them live a childhood similar to my own.

Outside, free of the restraints of shoes, playdates, preparatory classes, and anything else the world deems necessary for kids. Kids who belong outside, chasing dragonflies, counting lightning bugs and collecting frogs. This momma is not done with this fight, not by a long shot.