The second day of camp, Chandler wanted to come home. He said as much in his letter. There weren’t subtleties, or hidden messages, or even possibility for false misinterpretations in his seven-year-old scrawl. The child was very precise in his communication with the four words that should have sent my heart into an erratic beat, my sanity straight into orbit: COME PICK ME UP.
There comes a time in one’s life that you are called to be strong. To embrace the challenges beckoned by courage, rather than stumble along in the rotes of the cowardly. It is at these moments that you come to a rusty fork in the road as an adult, one path leading to growth and maturity, the other leading you to the same stagnant place you’ve been before, leaving you numbed and de-sensitized by the unchanged scenery and the foreseeable circumstances.
Difficult choices must be made to appropriately direct the development of our children. It will always hurt us more than it will them, a mantra we will repeat more times than we care to count, reminding ourselves that our primary intention and purpose is for their overall good.
Luckily, I didn’t have to consider any of this because I didn’t receive Chandler’s letter until AFTER he arrived home. I’m here to tell you that it is easy to be brave when one is oblivious.
The letter was in a journal Chandler kept while at camp. I didn’t find it until after unpacking his suitcase, a black bag spilling over with filth and fumes and five days worth of soggy clothes, in an area we would later secure with yellow caution tape, declaring it biohazard ground and unfit for small animals and children.
Would I have done the brave thing if I had known Chandler wanted to come home? Required him to stay at camp, knowing that the experience would mature him in a way I would have made unavailable by retrieving him?
ABSOLUTELY NOT. I would have left for him immediately, leaving skid marks in my driveway, taking the sharp turn on two wheels, to bring my baby home where he belonged.
The camp staff is very smart in this regard. They are keenly aware that mamas would line the road of the camp entrance at the first hint that their offspring may be in slight distress, all the while ignoring their cell phones with multiple messages left from the daddies, reasonably imploring, “But it’s good for them!”
We can’t help ourselves. It is an innate reaction born in us the same day as our babies. It is a trait we will spend all of our days trying to override with little success, and quite frankly, little effort. Our first instinct is to protect, to fix, to comfort and minor obstacles like a closed and locked gate at a summer camp do not intimidate us.
Which again, is why those camp counselors are so very wiley and wise. Communication is limited and circumstances concealed, I am slowly beginning to learn, to give the campers an opportunity to experience growth, explore the unknown, and step out in faith in a way I might not otherwise allow. My attempts to inadvertently control the outcomes only stunt the inevitable process.
Looking back, which now makes sense as I move forward, I realize that this is often my unfortunate approach during the times God is growing me spiritually. He blocks the easy path knowing I will take it. He leaves no other options knowing I will attempt to make my own. He makes the difficult decision for me knowing my uncertainty will lead to no decision at all.
My growth, my maturation, my development into the person I was always meant to be, like that of my children, sometimes depends on me just getting out of my own way.
Chase and Chandler had a great time at camp. The expressions on their faces when they first saw me imprinted a memory on this scarred mama’s heart I will likely never forget. All the way home, my boys joyfully recounted their adventures and experiences, talking on top of one another in that excited chatter only known to animated little boys.
“Hey mom,” Chandler said suddenly. “You wanna know my favorite camp activity?”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Coming home,” he said in all innocence and seriousness. "Coming home."