When she was seven, we told her she’d have to wait five more years before she could go. She was disappointed, but she accepted our answer with a happy heart.
We shared the same song and dance at ages 8, 9, and 10.
“Not until after sixth grade….,” even though many of her friends were already going.
But last year, when we were at Family Camp, and she talked our counselor’s ear off about what she would need to do to become a camp counselor herself — when she shared with me that maybe she could go into camping ministry as a career — we thought that possibly, we needed to re-consider our position.
So we made her a deal.
If she paid for half of it, we’d let her go to overnight summer camp after Fifth Grade.
She took us seriously, asking for money in lieu of almost all traditional birthday and Christmas gifts to raise her funds. She did work to cover the rest.
We dropped her off last Sunday. And she was out of her mind with excitement.
I didn’t sleep at all the first night she was gone, not because I was worried for her well-being. I knew she was in good hands. But because it was hard for me to know she was experiencing a milestone in her life, and I didn’t get to share it with her.
I was glad she was there. I just wished I was there too.
But knowing now how ready she was for that moment, I had to wonder. Should we have let her go sooner? Should we have given in to her pleading two years ago? Did we make some sort of critical error by requiring that she wait? How will we handle this same scenario with the boys?
The never-ending second-guessing of parenthood. It’s enough to make us crazy.
There’s always the question of deciding whether our kids have demonstrated enough responsibility to earn the freedoms we consider giving to them. And I do think responsibility should generally precede the granting of freedoms.
But in addition to responsibility, one thing that has concerned me since we started this parenting journey, is that culturally, we just don’t make our kids wait for much anymore. Homecoming mums, technology, movie content, social media, just to name a few of the things many families dole out at very early ages, leaving not much for children to look forward to.
And I think there’s value in the waiting sometimes. In the anticipating. In the looking forward to that precedes the coming of age and all that goes along with it.
There’s lessons about patience. About contentment. About trust. About the value of a dollar.
And there’s opportunity. To dig roots deep. To build relationships. To create family identity, before we open the flood gates to all kinds of freedoms that will rob our families of time together down the road.
I say this not to pass judgment on families who have allowed their kids to camp (or do anything else for that matter) before we have because each family has its own good reasons for making the decisions it does. For us, though, camping is just one of those things we wanted to say “not now” to for a while.
But even still, we’re wise to constantly re-evaluate these parenting decisions we make without letting our pride get in the way.
We must be willing to change course through prayer and discernment when the circumstances call for it. So when we have a child who, let’s say, is feeling a potential leading toward vocational camping ministry, we don’t miss the opportunity to help her live into that by participating in camp herself.
Wow, this is hard stuff.
I’m learning that this “roots and wings” thing is really complicated. Anybody with me? They’re two of the best gifts we can give our children, but giving them both, at the same time, is no easy task.
The tension that exists between the desire to protect what we’ve created as a family and the need to begin letting go of our children at the same time is enough to make us mad.
Because sometimes, I want to just shut the blinds, lock the doors, and keep us all inside, safe from the outside world, as a family. I don’t want to share us with anybody. And I don’t want anything to change.
And yet at the same time, it’s exciting to see them grow. To help them earn their wings. And to watch them begin flying on their own.
In this instance, I think we’ve done the right thing at the right time. For our family. For this child. Because leaving her at her cabin left me heartbroken and over the moon all at the same time. She was constantly on my mind since the moment we walked away from her, but not because I was filled with worry.
I knew she would navigate camp just fine.
I just missed her. And I suffered from FOMO.
I wanted to know every detail about her experience. The new things she did, the new friends she made, the new perspective she gained about her faith. I wanted to be in on every aspect of camp that makes it so special. I wanted to join in the fun with her. To watch her blossom. To see her soar.
But I couldn’t. Because I was here. And she was there.
It was an ache in the pit of my stomach. A good ache. But an ache nonetheless.
And I think that’s precisely how it’s supposed to feel.
We picked her up on Saturday, and she was non-stop chatter all the way home. She shared stories about the fun stuff. But she also shared stories about the deep stuff. The stuff that tells me camp at this time was at the right time for her. It was such a joy to hear her share about her adventures. And it made the ache in the pit of my stomach all week worthwhile.
So what about you?
I’m guessing many of you are wrestling with similar feelings at various points along this parenting path.
Where are you feeling the tension between the roots and wings? In what area are you considering the possibility that it may be time to start letting go?