Monday, June 15, 2009

It's Worth It!

Learning to work hard and lovin' it!

Well, so much for my lofty plans of once-a-week blogging. I’ve blogged in my head, does that count? Perhaps I'll try for once-a-month blogging. Grass keeps growing and life keeps coming at us at an alarming pace. We spent last weekend working at our church camp grounds. It’s hot grueling work and every year I think most adults look at each other and think, “What are we doing spending a perfectly beautiful weekend breaking our backs?” And so after a couple days of hard work it was with aching muscles and calloused hands that we got into our air conditioned van to come home.

The boys saw the weekend through totally different eyes. They think of our work weekends at Mode Camp as nothing short of a real holiday. We actually have them join in on some of the work, but that doesn’t for a moment inhibit their absolute joy any time we drive onto the grounds. I asked the boys what it is they love so much about Mode Camp and Josiah’s response surprised me. He said, “I love the freedom best.” I asked him what he meant and he explained, “I just love getting to walk around in such a big place on my own.” In all honesty his response perplexed me at first. Is it healthy at such a young age to desire freedom? Or are we smothering our children? I spoke with Matt about my concerns and he quickly informed me
that he well remembers the exhilaration as a child of walking around camp “on his own”. The more we talked and I thought, I realized that I really appreciate Josiah’s response.

Matt and I are not the kind of parents that leave our young children “on their own”. We would never dream of dropping them off for library time, homeschool group activities or music lessons. We think it is very important at their ages to closely guard influences and monitor their behavior. Our church doesn’t hold to the philosophy of segregated worship or learning. During the Sunday School hour there is a children’s class, but our young people join in with the adults once they are ready to leave the children’s class. And we see the benefits of multi-generational relationships as a result of this approach. Our family doesn’t do sleepovers with other kids or even much unsupervised playtime with other children. (Disclaimer: this is not an essay on how you should personally run your church or home. You have my permission to do things differently.) However, for 10 days out of the year we do send our kids off to “children’s church” and when the boys are old enough and mature enough they will be allowed to stay in the boy’s dorm during camp. Are we being hypocritical for 10 days? No, I don’t think so and here’s why.

Mode Camp is a safe place for our boys to “stretch their wings” a bit. What they perceive as freedom is still very carefully monitored. In all of the parenting material we have digested over the years we still come back to an analogy that we find so helpful from the book entitled “Child Wise”. It pictures parenting as a funnel. The narrow part of the funnel represents the child at birth. All of his choices etc. are made by his parents. There is no freedom or independence at this stage. But as the child grows, and as a trusting relationship with his parents deepens, the funnel widens. Until at last by the teen years there is very little restraint on the child from the parents, but he is now governed by self restraint and hopefully his relationship with God.

What better place then at camp when our boys are surrounded by our trusted friends to give a little room in the funnel? What an opportunity for Matt and I to observe and study our boys, watching to see if they are indeed ready for more freedom or how they behave when they think no one is watching. And oh how they love it. Not just the freedom, but the fun of spending hour after hour with so many Christian brothers and sisters young and old. And while admittedly at their ages the pews get hot and hard after a long sermon, their little souls are being fed. Maybe not so much from the sermons yet, but from observing the lives of those they see in the pews around them. At camp, relationships are built and strengthened in a way that the business of everyday life very seldom affords. I firmly believe that a relationship of trust is an extremely powerful tool with which to influence another for Christ. In light of that, even the "fun and games" of camp serves a purpose.

And so in reflecting on all that, I was reminded of why we do what we do. It makes perfect sense that we are spending beautiful weekends breaking our backs. And when I start to question if the work is really worth it, I have only to look into the faces of my children. It's definitely worth it.