Friday, January 13, 2012

Titus2Woman: Betty Part 2

Below is the conclusion to Titus2Woman: Betty

We had unique challenges that few kids experience.  We raised our children at the camp we were working at in Illinois.  

Kristen was 6, Jason 3, and Brian was 6 months when we moved there.  We were there 11 years, and basically the only way Jason and Brian remember growing up.  

The challenges were plentiful.  Rod was the administrator and I was the camp nurse as well as being involved in the kitchen, assisting the first five years and food service director the last six years.   


Finding family time was tough.  Not only did we live at the camp, but someone always lived in the apartment in our basement.  Besides working together with staff, we lived at the camp with most of the permanent staff.  We ate with them,  went to the small Mennonite church close by with them, and were in small groups with them.  It was hard for me to really find someone to be my sounding board since we were all so intertwined together.  My friend, from back home became a much-needed ear for me as did my sisters.   

We felt like we lived in a fish bowl, with people watching us and our actions.  Our personal mail came with the camp mail, and people were expecting our kids to behave all the time.  Camp kids were known as Camp Brats, but that was a label we didn’t want placed on our kids. 

In the summer, the challenge for our kids would be giving up their space for basically four months to 600 kids throughout the summer - as well as year-round groups that came on the weekends.  

Also, in the summer, we opened up our house to the summer staff we would hire, which numbered about twenty on the weekends.  I really enjoyed having the staff the first several years, and would have themed parties, such as a pet party, a corndog party, and a vacation party, which we all dressed appropriately for.  It was not unusual for us to come home from a much needed evening get away for the family and find our small living room packed with the staff watching a movie.   

As the kids got older and we grew more weary, I would put a red stop sign in my kitchen window at our house if we needed just family time with no extras hanging around.  If staff saw that sign they knew we just needed to be alone.  

Another thing that was hard for our kids was that we were so incredibly busy that they were not able to participate in summer sports.  Brian did try baseball one year, and the babysitter whom the camp would hire each summer, would drive him to practice and the games.  Of course there were games we missed since we had people to feed and attend to back at the camp.   Also, since we had groups usually on Sundays, we wouldn’t make it to church.  We always found a ride for the kids, though, or Rod took them when he had the Sunday off.  

Rod and I both felt the job at the camp would lend us being with our kids since we were accessible at most times.  The kids could come down to the lodge and see us whenever, and would even end up working in the kitchen or serving food.  But you know even though we were there for them, it tended to be a more physical presence than really “being” with them one on one.  

There were always distractions it seemed.  And sometimes the summer staff, who were usually high school and college students, would discipline our kids in ways we didn’t agree with or teach them things we didn’t like. But the blessings of raising our kids at a camp have far outweighed the negatives.  They learned to know, and respect, people from all walks of life, from the homeless, people of all nationalities, volunteers, recovering substance abuse people, 400 Harley riders, (with tattoos I would have to cover my children’s eyes from seeing ) to the church leaders.   What a blessing for us all for it seemed the kids could always find someone to hang out with.  

I will never forget being in the kitchen cooking for a Chinese group, and looking out to the dining area at the camp where they were showing a movie for the kids.  There amongst all the dark haired children sitting in rows staring at the screen was our very blonde 3 year old Brian.  He seemed to enjoy the movie even though it was in Chinese.   

Our children, since we worked late at night, would go to campfire each evening with the campers and join in with group games. Each one of our children accepted Christ at camp.   They were able to fish and boat in the lake, swim in the pool, take night hikes, participate in mud hikes, ice skate, tubing,  going down a zip line, and so many more things a child seldom gets to do on a regular basis.  There also was a challenge for Rod and I to decide what to do with all the tied dyed shirts, and other crafts they had made in the craft house, that came with a large amount of money on our tab for all they made the entire summer.    

When we were leaving the camp and deciding where to go next, Kristen, who was halfway through her senior year, asked us not to both work if we decided to continue in camping.  I know that there are things she wished she could have done, but was unable to because of our busy schedules.  She didn’t want her brothers to experience the same.  It was hard to leave camp, but we knew God had slammed the doors and windows there and was leading us elsewhere.  We needed to be obedient to wherever He wanted us to go.   

It was hard to leave Kristen behind in Illinois to finish high school when we moved to Michigan.  There were a lot of 3 ½ hour trips taken to see her last concerts and other activities that seniors experience that time of the year.   

Rod and I were burning out from giving, but not being fed spiritually.  I was becoming resentful of the things that I had to miss because of the camp, the final straw being when I had to miss Kristen getting crowned Homecoming queen since we were in Iowa, at a staff retreat that I had to be at.  

The Lord has been so faithful and good, and we would not be where we are in our walk and relationship with the Lord if it weren’t for the move and FFM.   Our life verse is Proverbs 3:5-6.  Trust in the Lord with all you heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.   Things didn’t always make sense to us, but we have found when we are obedient to His calling and leading we are blessed if we go. 
I asked Kristen recently if she feels that living at a camp affected our family today and how.  She believes it has, and describes our family today as a “fluid” family.  We are a family that will invite others to stay with us if there is no place for them, we entertain with meals, and help others when there is a need.  We are a social family not minding having people around or with us.   It does my heart good when I see or hear of our children helping others not expecting anything in return, and Jason even went back a few summers ago to volunteer for a week working with the ropes course and zip line.  I believe each one of our children have that servants heart that I prayed for them to have and they saw demonstrated so much at camp. 

These are the things I would tell myself if I were 25:
 - Not to think that my house has to be in perfect order, it’s o.k. to have it be a little messy.  
 - I need to be more laid back and not to get anxious so quickly.  
 - Not to yell at my children and husband (who has helped me immensely since he such a laid back, easy going type.)  
 - It is O.k. to say "no" and not try to do everything for everybody- you don’t need to be a people pleaser.  
 - Play with your children, spend quality time with them, they grow way to fast.  
 - Don’t expect your children to be perfect.   It is o.k. that your child doesn’t have new Easter clothes for church, and they can also wear tennis shoes and jeans to church. 

Rod and I have been empty nesters for seven years and we love it.  It was hard to see that last one go, but our time is much more flexible.  I don’t have to cook nutritious meals all the time, and leftovers are great to serve two or more times in a row.  

I love it when the kids come home, and even more so now with grandchildren, a fianc√© for Jason, and Brian’s girlfriend.  It gives me a chance to cook all those things they love that Rod and I seldom eat.  I do miss the discussions at meals and the entertainment they provided at meals.  But I love it when they call for a cooking question or other advice.  (Even the call I got one time at midnight, wondering if you soak lentils overnight.)  That just makes me feel like I have done my job and taught them they can be on their own, they are self sufficient, and they also won’t starve  : )     

*I would encourage mothers to choose their battles.  Ask yourself it will matter in a year and that is a help to which ones you choose.

*Listen to your children, they sometimes have great wisdom.  When Kristen was 3 months from being 16 she was asked to go to homecoming.  When I reminded her of the rule of no dating till you’re 16, she replied, “So, will 3 months make me more mature than what I am now? “   Kristen made sense and she went.

* Don’t put labels on your children or call them brats, monsters, or refer to them being bad.  Kids take things pretty literally and may begin to think they truly are those things you say.

*   Don’t expect one child to be like the other.  God designed each one differently and each comes with their own gifting, qualities, and quirks.  School may come easier for some, but not for all.  Don’t expect them all to be the same academically.

* Follow through with the action of discipline that you spoke to your child when they were doing something they weren’t to do.  Be persistent in the area of  discipline, instead of just throwing up your hands or doing it yourself.

*Don’t talk about your weight, or how you perceive yourself to be, physically, in front of them.  I had lost 30 pounds once and still stated I was fat even though I weighed 105.    I would put food in my mouth and decided it wasn’t worth it and go spit it out.   I worked for Weight Watchers for years and was basically focused on my physical appearance.  When Kristen was a freshman she developed an eating disorder.  I feel that part of the reason for it was what she had seen and heard the things I said or did as well of an abuse that had been repressed.

* Counseling is not a bad thing.  We had some family counseling when Kristen was working through her abuse and it really made clear to us the dynamics of our family and made us closer.

* Teach your children they need to wait for things.  Don’t give them everything they want.  Also, if money is tight, sit them down with you and tell them that things are tight and for the time being there can’t be any extras or candy at the checkout.  Don’t go into all the details, but reassure them things are o.k. it just is a period to watch what you spend.   I felt it made it easier when we did this with our kids.

*There are sacrifices that go with parenting.  Children do get sick, and usually at holidays or other special events planned is sure to be when they do!  Even though you don’t want to miss out, stay home with that child, (either parent), so your child doesn’t pass it along.  There are so many people these days that can’t miss work to take care of sick children, and single moms, especially that depend on that income.  It may be a disappointment then, but will it matter in a year?

* Don’t work against your child’s teacher, but work with them. Sometimes it may be necessary, such as when Jason’s 5th grade teacher who had been teaching forever, had health issues that really interfered with her teaching and teaching methods.  Don’t always side with the child, but with the teacher.  Find out all the facts before jumping to conclusions if there seems to be a problem with school.

* I remember not wanting to take my children to the doctor because of the expense.  But they are worth it, and God gave them to you to care for.  I am glad, even though it was more expensive, that we took Jason to an eye specialist for his eye problem than just an optometrist. 

* Read to your children from birth on up, play games with them, sing and dance around, while hoping the neighbors aren’t looking through the windows, and make memories.    Make learning opportunities fun.  Before getting a computer we had a set of encyclopedias near the table.  During meals I would grab one and we would play trivia on different subjects.  

*It seems these days that some parents feel their children should be in every activity.  When this is done I notice that they begin to attend church, especially Wednesday nights, less and less.  Make church a priority.  It is the best activity they can ever be a part of.  I heard once someone say this about church:  “it use to be called Sabbath, then it became the Holy Day, then it became Sunday, and now it is the weekend”.  Please don’t let your child see church as the weekend. 

*Remember you are in charge, not your child.  Let them see you as a parent, not just their best friend.

*When kids are old enough give them a clothing allowance.  We would give three times a year.  This started for us when Kristen always wanted white sneakers when she already had several pairs and t-shirts as well.  It took the pressure off of me feeling bad to say no all the time, taught her that labels aren’t always worth paying the money for, and she became a more responsible, bargain loving, shopper.     

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