Lessons from Family Camp
We left our cozy incubator. We were given the chance to test the waters and experience the world beyond our home and church.
It was hard. But good. It wasn’t always pretty – but their was growth.
As a family, we placed ourselves in a situation that we thought would be easy . . . but proved otherwise.
We went to family camp. Fort Wilderness – to be exact. (Highly recommend the place.)
A place filled with fun things to do . . . where complaining isn’t allowed because there simply isn’t time. Why complain when there is swimming, kayaking, horseback riding, nature classes, gum making, panning for gold, archery, and riflery . . . to name a few? A boy’s taste of heaven topped off with a happy mom who doesn’t have to cook or do dishes.
Yet somehow we managed to whine. I’m not sure who murmured more — the Granola Children or the Granola Parents.
Normally boasting of well-behaved children that show kindness and respect in public, I was surprised to find ourselves in the center of a fish bowl . . . experiencing a feeling similar to embarrassment. The object of attention.
Often it was because of the chubby, smiling blot of pink attached to my hip in the sea of blue.
(Naomi was a fan with many of the Summer Staff at Fort Wilderness.)
I would wager, though, that most of the time it was the line of testosterone following me.
Perhaps other children were behaving like mine, but I failed to see any other manic children during the six days of our family camp experience. Our inexperience at doing family camp must have been advertised on our foreheads due to the mass amounts of complete strangers coming up to us inquiring, “How are you guys doing? This must be hard for you. Especially having a baby.”
Was it that apparent?
Or was it the fact that twice we lost Gabe to his joy-rides on his Strider? Maybe it was the free WWF fight the two eldest had in the dining hall? The fact that we were late to E.V.E.R.T.Y.T.H.I.N.G. if we even showed up probably didn’t help. Perhaps it was my son screaming that we were bad parents? No, it must have been how we had to use a forklift to drop a few of our children to class . . . forcing them to learn how to make friends in a foreign setting.
The Engineer and I contemplated leaving. A vacation shouldn’t be filled with so much strife . . . sleepless nights . . . complaining . . . . but here we were thick in the middle of several hearts in much need of a good weeding. Or spanking.
To leave would be a sign of weakness. Not to mention a huge waste of money.
I know that is it profitable to take my children out of their learning rooms and practice. I just had no idea how hard it would be to maintain structure, allow for play, eat according to schedule, and practice kindness while sleep deprived.
I needed to model correct behavior . . . so that my children could do likewise.
But how could the Engineer and I expect to be role models, when we weren’t diving into the Word of God? We weren’t allowing ourselves to be under the Master’s leadership. Submitting. Yielding to the work that God wanted to do in our life while at family camp.
Evidently the Engineer and I had failed to unpack everything. We sat under great teaching about the prodigal son . . . but we failed to graft ourselves to the Vine at family camp.
Thus, we suffered and our children suffered.
Sally Clarkson puts it eloquently in her book title The Mission of Motherhood,
. . . eventually my children must attach themselves to the Vine, not to me. Only the Lord can draw our children to himself. Only he can give salvation to our children. And only he can convict them of their sins. I can and must love my children, nurture them, comfort them, teach them. I can and must model for them what life as a “branch” looks life and show them ways to stay “attached” through prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with other believers, and so on. But I cannot be their “vine,” and I cannot play the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
As my children have grown older, this realization has actually been a comfort to me. I cannot be with them everywhere they go. I cannot be right next to them the
rest of their lives to tell them what to do. Even if it were physically possible to do so, such hovering would cripple them in their own abilities to become strong and wise. My children must learn how to walk with the Lord without my help. (pp 130-131)
Rather than giving in to the path of least resistance, which would mean leaving . . . we chose to stay. By leaving we would only be punishing our children, not training them. We reached this decision through a very candid discussion.
Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
Proverbs 14:4 states, “Where the oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”
It was time to place the yoke upon ourselves and make our thoughts and desires obedient to Christ.
Change #1: This would begin with reinstating quiet times. Just because we were on vacation, didn’t mean that we should stop reading our Bibles!!! This became evident when one night I discovered a very distraught almost 7 year old . . . it was late, way past his bedtime when it dawned on me . . . had he read his Bible?
“Mommy, can I please stay up and read?”
How could I say no to that?
And that “allowance” made an impression on this young boy.
He found solace in Psalm 23. In fact, he was amazed by the words, the beauty, the comfort.
The following day, I discovered Asher’s brothers following suit. In fact, the whole family was doing their quiet times . . . not out of obligation but out of necessity . . . we needed to be with Jesus to be with each other.
Change #2: Stop complaining. I would imagine that I was the chief of sinners regarding this often overlooked sin of ingratitude. Throughout the week, I found myself in a dark room maintaining an almost a monk-like silence so that dear Naomi could get her beauty sleep. I missed out on craft making, paddle boat rides, surf board stunts . . . etc.
I only got to hear stories of the fun.
But what did I gain? A well rested daughter. The knowledge that I chose to prefer someone else over myself. My selfish sacrifice was her gain . . . and eventually mine. I was able to have 2-hour quiet times, read my camera manual, write, and engage in some “vacation reading.”
Sure my time won’t make the photo album, but it wasn’t a waste.
Change #3: I met with the chief instigators. There ensued a discussion on practicing thankfulness, serving others, and eliminating strife. We acted out different scenarios. We practiced helpful words. Of course it didn’t hurt that we did this over coffee and creamosa’s. (Family Camp at Fort Wilderness has some big perks – like a coffee shop! Did I mention that they serve real butter and fresh fruit? No kimchi, though.)
In summary, the simple fact is that vacationing as a family is more than likely going to involve some strife, especially if you have some little’s along with you. Here are the bullet points of what I learned:
- Keep the vacation simple and your expectations low.
- Don’t pack your day with activities.
- Get rest . . . even if that means missing an afternoon activity.
- Don’t forget your Bible and fellowshipping with your Creator.
- Choose to be thankful.
- Don’t potty train on a vacation.
- Try to eat familiar foods . . . but don’t stress if you can’t.
- Try Fort Wilderness Family Camp. God is working there.
Would I go back to family camp? You bet. (And I’m hoping to talk some others into joining us.)
Besides Wisconsin, you can also find Fort Wilderness on Facebook.