The great outdoors has inspired writers to craft brilliant works of literature, artists to create brilliant masterpieces, and after what I’ve already witnessed this summer, I’d argue, moms and dads to deliver brilliant bits of parenting.

A myriad of examples of brilliant parenting have occurred while camping with friends. In one scenario, as a leisurely breakfast was getting started, a young child was whining — something forbidden in the wilderness.

“Honey,” the mother said. “You’re being really needy. I think you just need to work on sucking it up a little.”

The beauty of this particular pearl of wisdom is that it implies that “sucking it up” isn’t just something kids have to do once in a while, but rather is a skill that a child can “work on” and possibly perfect. After the gentle admonishment, I didn’t hear a peep from the child. I think she was working on the assigned task.

In the wilderness parenting gets real. You expect your children to be more independent, figure things out on their own, and to go play for goodness sake.

The general rule between parents and kids while camping goes something like this. I’ll let you do whatever you want, if you promise to have fun. Parents promise not to say “no” and kids promise not to whine or get hurt (at least seriously). This contract is not communicated formally, but evolves organically.

Take for example, Telluride local mom, Wendy Hampton’s Golden Rule of S’mores. Sitting around the campfire her 6-year old asked if she could have another s’more. Hampton’s response was automatic, “Of course, honey. We’re camping, you can have as many s’mores as you like.”

Her child’s wide grin expanded across her face, sparkling in the firelit night. Interestingly, the child didn’t eat anymore s’mores than Hampton would have probably given permission for anyway.

And that is the magic. In the wilderness, when parents acquiesce to every request of their child, they find the child doesn’t actually do anything differently from what they would have received permission to do anyway. They just feel like they’re getting more, and in return parents actually do get more – in the form of hanging out longer by the fire or taking an extra half hour on their bike ride.

Parents also win because camping is true commune living. One family may make dinner for everyone, another provides snacks, and another will happily flip pancakes in the morning. This gives the adults, especially moms, time off. Oh, the luxury of actually finishing a cup of coffee and a conversation.

Camping levels the playing field between children and adults. And in the minds of Telluride parents, the wilderness is a safe place to let their kids roam. There is no traffic, no television and no weird strangers. While camping, there is usually a wilderness to explore, a mob of kids to do it with, and small neighborhood of campers and tents to visit.

Sure your kids return dirty, simultaneously sugared up and tired, and with a few new scratches – but they always return happy. More importantly, so do mom and dad.

Summer Sunday is a weekly column by Jesse James McTigue and sponsored by Jagged Edge intended to deliver tips, news, musings and stories about the people, places, events and experiences that make the Telluride summer an epic adventure.

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