Our Summer Tradition

For most of the summer, my kids have slept outside. It’s become a tradition my son started a loooong time ago.

Once the nighttime temperatures in the Black Hills hovers around 50˚ or higher—that’d generally be around the end of June—I join my kids. Luckily, the mosquitoes haven’t been a major problem this year considering how much rain we’ve had this summer, but we still use bug spray for the few that are around.

When my son was eight or nine, he wanted to sleep outside like cowboys used to do on cattle drives. He had a “bedroll,” which included a wool blanket, his saddle and cowboy hat. Just like a good cowboy, he had our dog sleep with him curled up at his feet. One year our country boy bought a cot tent from Cabela’s and slept in his new tent all summer with Pepper, and invited his sister to join them. Since then, sleeping outside in the summertime has evolved.

The whole family started occasionally sleeping in the yard together after our son mentioned how many shooting stars he saw one night. I wanted to see some for myself and agreed to sleep outside too; then we encouraged Dad to join us. In order for my husband and me to be able to see the stars and still move our bodies in the morning, we threw the hide-a-bed mattress on the ground.

Going to bed outdoors has involved all sorts of sleeping arrangements: different tents, no tents, on couch cushions, air mattresses, tri-folding lounge chairs, just sleeping bags on the ground and most recently, a roll-away bed for sleeping on. It just depends on each person’s preference, or in my husband’s and my case; age. There just isn’t any give in the ground or my body without cushion.

There’s something magical about fresh air that makes a person sleep so soundly. With every breath of fresh air we inhale, we succumb to deep sleep. The best night’s rest I’ve ever had have been from nights I went to bed outside. There’s nothing more calming and soothing than having billions of the tiniest night lights above me, or closing my eyes and listening to the sounds of frogs in the distance, crickets chirping in the grass, and the horses walking through and nipping grass close by. It’s not uncommon to be awakened during the night or before dawn, to the sounds of cow elk not far from our house talking to each other and calling their calves. I’m pretty sure by some of the cows’ unique calls, a few of the calves received a scolding.

We’ve had some great family conversations in our yard while watching stars come out and waiting for some to streak across the sky. Stories, jokes, discussions, and laughter fill the air as we gradually unwind for sleep. Some of our best family times have been talking and laughing outside at bedtime.       

Our family may not take a summer vacation every year, but we love our family nights savoring the sights, sounds, scents and feelings of sleeping outside, creating memories of our summer nights’ dreams.

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