Today I get my girl back.
For seven long weeks Julia has been at camp, serving on a work crew. She has learned how to feed hundreds of hungry kids at a time. She has learned how to clean a toilet. She has learned how to pack up food for overnight camping trips. And she has served the community by cleaning up a 24-mile biking path.
Seven long weeks.
She’s not the first of my three to have chosen a summer away. In fact, all three of my girls have had extended stays at camp at one time or another. And over the years lots of people have asked me how on earth I could let them go away for a whole summer.
Here’s a little mommy secret for you: it’s never easy on me. Never.
I spend a good amount of time thinking about them, praying for them, and even worrying a little about them. If you know anything about my story, you know that camp is just about the last place I’d like to send my daughter for the summer.
And yet, I do it.
Because it really does take a village. No matter what you think of Hillary Clinton, I think she was right when she reinforced the idea that many people can and do influence our kids. Personally, I’d hate to be the only influence on my kids’ lives—they would be sad, sorry, one-dimensional people if I were the only one pouring truth into them. The key, of course, is making sure the RIGHT people are influencing our kids. At camp our daughters have been influenced by wonderful Christian college students, amazing adults, and even younger kids who have all had a hand in shaping their thoughts and values.
Because they need to unplug. At the camp our girls have attended, electronics are not allowed. At all. Ever. Even the counselors are not allowed iPods or computers or cell phones (except when they are off duty), so the entire camp is completely present. Completely in the moment. And completely unplugged. I don’t know about you, but I really believe that in this day and age, a kid who knows how to unplug is a great kid in my book. Unplugging teaches kids something valuable about the art of great conversation.
Because they need their freedom. As my girls have grown older they have earned varying degrees of freedom, and a summer away at camp is just one step along that path. I’m sure this freedom is fun at first (hey, let’s see how late we can stay up tonight!), but it also includes making sure she gets enough sleep so that she will have energy to serve the next day. Or being allowed to go into town to do her laundry. Yep, with freedom comes responsibility.
Because they need to work. (And to get dirty. And to not wear makeup.) I hope I’ve already laid the groundwork here, and I hope that before my daughter set foot on camp grounds she already knew how to clean a toilet. But there’s something about having an 8-5 “job” that’s good for her. She’s tired at the end of a day. And something translates to what her dad does every day. Something about when Mom goes to work starts to make sense. She’s learning that there is value in a good day’s work.
Because God has something to teach them there that they can’t learn at home. I don’t know what that lesson is, and I may never know, but I can tell you that my daughters are different people when they come home from a summer away. Somehow it seems that being immersed in nature and being unplugged allows you to really hear from God in a way that just doesn’t happen here in suburbia. It could also be that the big lessons God wants to teach them take time. Seven weeks, perhaps?
For all these reasons, and probably many others, I sent Julia to camp this summer.
But here’s one reason I did NOT send Julia to camp: because I wanted her out of my hair.
I think it’s pretty obvious that we have fun together and that we enjoy each other’s company. I have a great teenager (I’ve had three great teenagers!), and I’d love to have her around all summer. In fact, it would be easier and a lot less expensive to keep her at home.
But I am confident that God has used this summer in Julia’s life to shape her into the woman He wants her to be. As much as my heart longed to be with her, I trust that God had better things for her at camp than He had for her here at home.
Today I get her back.
I will throw my arms around her and hold her tightly. I will load her things into my car and listen to her stories all the way home (or until she falls asleep). I will help her do her stinky laundry and cook her a couple of great meals until she settles into a new routine at home.
And as the school year starts and talk of camp becomes less and less a part of our everyday conversation, I will watch her—this new, grownup version of her—and I will know that I made the hardest right decision of my life.