we go to family camp every summer and it has become, hands down, our most favorite time of the year. our favorite place to reconnect as a family, grow in our faith and fellowship, meet new and incredible friends, dive into learning more about God, and have a whole lot of silly, crazy, goofy FUN. family camp. it’s a very good thing.
every year there is an underlying “competition” going on with 4 randomly divided teams led by camp counselors. games and challenges verge on the silly side, athletic prowess to the downright ridiculous. but so fun. and totally about kids. i mean really, it’s never about winning…it’s about building confidence, instilling sportsmanship, learning to work as a team, and just letting go, being silly and having a whole lot of fun.
this year i was inspired by three little boys…two of my own and a friend’s son. at a particular challenge there were numerous zaney tasks that had to be completed as a relay, one being a 4-legged-race. our boys really wanted to participate in a challenge but our “team captain” didn’t really understand the family camp way. it was her first year and she wanted to win. she passed over our boys time after time until filling all the slots with adults or older kids. no little kids on the playlist that day. our boys were visibly heartbroken. and i…was a little bit ticked. i mean, after all, it’s about the kids. so i commented, probably a little less-than-gracefully, that apparently there were no tasks available to our kids, just loud enough for her to overhear. and so the boys made the cut. they were in. and they were ecstatic.
off we ran down to our position, trying to get them tied together just so. but for some reason there weren’t enough ties for our team. huh. weird. so we wrapped them up with what we could find nearby. they were ready. they practiced a bit. it was rough. but they were progressing forward. steady. but our teammates didn’t come. where was the handoff? hmmmm. confused, we sent the boys ahead, something was amiss. and then we realized. a stand-in team, ready in case the boys couldn’t make it, had taken off in their place. ahead of them. didn’t even give them a chance. woah.
but you know what? our boys finished. they pressed forward, linked arms and they did it. together. they believed in themselves and we believed in them. the four of us parents walked behind them, all the way. cheering them on, encouraging their steps, praising their efforts. they did awesome. and they crossed the finish line, cut through the tape as if they won the first place prize. you should’ve seen their faces. they were so proud. they did it! to them, it was a marathon. it was hard! they complained, they struggled, there were even tears along the way. but they dug in and persevered. and when we went to bed that evening my boys told me it was the best part of their day. the best day of family camp. ever.
it taught me something. sometimes we have to fight for our kids. i definitely could’ve handled it better than a snide comment just loud enough for this woman to overhear. i mean, really. it’s a bit embarrassing. i’m not great at taking a stand and telling another adult to knock it off. i’m much better at staying quiet and complaining about it behind their back for the next several hours. anyone?? but i need to be. i need to get brave for their sake. that event was for our kids. it was about our kids. it was exactly what they needed. and i knew that.
sometimes as grownups we get our priorities out of whack. we think of everything as a challenge to be won, and everyone around us a competitor to beat. and when we live that way, we teach our kids to live that way too. and our kids need to play! they need the opportunity to participate in a great race. to build confidence, character, and self-esteem. to learn that good sportsmanship is far more important than winning first place. that life is about way more than winners and losers. it’s about grace and joy. compassion and inclusion. it’s about being a part of a team; a community. it’s about having FUN. digging in and finding strength when the race gets tough. WE have to teach them. and we have to learn to step in and stand up for them sometimes too. parenting is not for the weak of heart. but they need us to fight for them; to give them the chance to dream. to dare. to give them opportunities to succeed and fail. to cheer them on to find their best. and to love them the same, either way.
these boys inspire me. they never knew another team went ahead of them and, in the end, it doesn’t matter. these three boys were met with a cheering crowd of precious families, incredible counselors and friends, gloriously crossed the finish line tape, experiencing a powerful moment of greatness. and that is all that matters. they got to race. they believed in themselves, worked hard together as a team, and achieved their goal. and that is victory. brave little warrior boys.
have you ever had to stand up or fight for your kids to another adult? how do you do it with grace?