As a mom and staff member at camp, it’s important not to treat your own children any different from the rest of the campers. No special privileges, no extra attention, you will not be in the same cabin. And for me, it’s important to let my children be a camper just like everyone else who doesn’t have their parents hovering over them. So I’m going to share some of my experiences about finding balance in this.
Being Mom To Others
I’m sure many of the children would love to have their parents at camp helping. But it’s not for everyone. So while I’m at camp, I don’t want to make them feel homesick or jealous. The attitude that I go in with is this, I am mom to them for the week. To my cabin of girls especially, because everyone has their own cabin leader and helper to take care of them. But there are times each day when everyone meshes together, and any one of those children at any time might need “mom”. So however I would care for and love my own children, is what every camper get’s from me.
My Sleepy Little One
One night, the youngest camper in my cabin (just turned 8) looked exhausted as we were heading to chapel! She was hot and worn out from so much activity, and as we sat and began to listen, she started to fall asleep and sway. If I forced her to stay awake, she would’ve been more miserable and not retained a word. So I wrapped my arm around her and let her sleep on me.
She needed it, and I was able to meet her need. She felt loved and safe, and woke up shortly after and enjoyed the rest of the service. After that service, all evening, and the days after, she would tell me every once in a while, “I love you so much, and I’m gonna miss you when I go”. Oh, my heart just melts still thinking about it! Not only did I show love to my little friend, but our other girls saw, and began taking better care of each other. Acts of love can really spread! When all the campers were gone and I was packing my things, I found a little note from her saying that she would miss me, and she loves me… I think I will keep it forever.
Another sweet memory actually started last year at camp. A little boy from my church really wanted his mom to be there, and can easily get home sick. So when his mom dropped him off, she told him that when he was missing mom, or just needed a mom hug, he could come to me or to my best friend (a cabin leader also from our church) and we would give him a “mom hug” from her. Isn’t that sweet?! And he sure did!! So this year at camp, that still stayed with him (and us). Whenever he needed a “mom hug” he would come running right to one of us and squeeze us tight. Or I would find him, and just give him a surprise “mom hug”. He loved it, and so did we!
It’s so easy to fall in love with these children at camp when you are loving on them as your own. It is a lot of work, but so is raising your own children. Really, it’s a labor of love. I can easily say that it is the most exhausting week of my year, but also the best!
1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Being Mom To My Own
As a camp staff mom, I have to keep different boundaries for myself and my own children. I don’t want them to feel less important to me, but I want to respect that most of the campers do not have a loved one there. Children who have parents at camp still need to experience camp just like the rest of the campers… without mom hovering over them!
Leave Them Alone
One day I was working in the snack shop, and while I was waiting on a little girl, my 12-year-old son was being waited on by someone else. So I of course paid close attention! He order a couple of bottles of pop, and chips, and snacks, and candy… It seemed like his list was never-ending! My friend who was waiting on him looked at me with wide nervous eyes and said, “Justine, are you okay with this?” I just waved my hands in front of myself and said I’m staying out of it. She laughed and applauded me lol. But he overheard us and said, “What do think I’m doing? I need to make this last for a few days!” We just laughed!! While we thought he was pigging out, he was planning ahead and buying his snack “rations” for the next few days. I’m still laughing about it!
Help Them As You Would Help The Others
Another evening, it was shower time for half of the cabins before dinner, while the rest of the cabins had to wait until after dinner. I was in the bathroom giving instructions to the girls who were already in there, when I heard my 10-year-old daughter cry out for me. I saw her little head peeking out of a changing room curtain. It was not her shower time, but she was changing out of her wet swimming suit for dinner. She called me into her curtain, and from neck to toes and every crack in between, she was covered in mud and sand! She begged me to ask her cabin leader if she could just rinse off.
Of course, if this was not my child, I would absolutely have them shower on the spot, but I was not her leader for the week. So I found her leader, explained, and of course she said yes. It was hard, as mom, in that moment not to say, “just get in the shower”. It all worked out. I had no doubts, but I wanted to respect her cabin leader and camp rules for parents (no special privileges).
Give Them What They Need
Sometimes my children would run to me during times of worship and prayer. I welcome them in, and treat them as I would any of the other children at camp. But if it turns into them just hanging on me, I gently remind them that I am there for all the children, and I need to keep myself open in case someone else also needs my attention.
One evening… actually our last evening, it was time for each one to find a place of their own in the sanctuary and spend some time with God. My son found a place next to me, and moments later, my daughter found a place next to me on the opposite side of my son. They both wrapped their arms around me tightly and continued to worship. While I was on cloud 9, I didn’t want to be in the middle of everyone and possibly distract other children. I also recognized that my own children needed this in that moment, and I needed to let them have it. So I guided them to the back of the chapel where we would not distract anyone, and we worshiped together. Then after about 5 minutes, they both let go and found their own places away from mom. It was a beautiful moment.
If it was any other camper, I would have done the same. I certainly would not want to be a damper on anyone else by pushing them away, and I also do not want to be a damper to my own children. Whatever their own reasons were for coming to me, I believe it was a gifted moment from God. All week we see each other from a distance (for the most part), and that last night we were gifted a small yet wonderful moment to worship our Father together, while at one of their favorite places. They love camp. You know, when you love something so much, you can’t wait to share that experience with the important people in your life. They love that I get to experience this part of their lives.
Being Mom To All
So my attitude toward all the children at camp is that Jesus is love, and I want to be like Him. I love my children more than any other children in the world. But just as I love them; I love, care for, nurture, discipline, etc. any other children who are in my care.
Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
I don’t feel like I really need to downplay my relationship with my own children, but I need to offer that love to each child at camp. Whether they need “mom hugs”, or they need someone to fall asleep on, someone to pour their heart out to, someone to pray with them, someone to dance and worship with, someone to carry their food tray or clean it up off of the floor, someone to tell them “no” for their own sake, someone to push them in the right direction, someone to point out a truth that needs told, someone to sing a song or tuck them in, someone to just hold them and let them cry… however they need loved on, they will get it from me.
I don’t believe we ever have to tone our love down for anyone. There is always room in our hearts to give more love. Jesus is love. He is in our hearts, and we are here as His ambassadors, full of His love, and His fruits. If we are serving as unto Him towards each person in our lives, there will never be a shortage of love from our hearts.
So as a camp mom, I respect the role of other camp leaders in my children’s lives. I respect that my children need to experience being a camper just like the other children. And I will pour out love just as I always do to my own children; and the same to each camper. It’s a wonderful experience to have so many children to pour love onto all at once, and to receive love from! I love being a camp staff mom!!
Lord, thank You for Your love. I thank You for loving me regardless of my downfalls. Thank You that Your love is immeasurable, and that I can also pour that love onto all those around me. I pray that as I go through life, everyone that I cross will know Your love better. Please help me to be an example of who You are; Your compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And help me to radiate the fruits that only come from You; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Throughout my life, I pray that I would love each person with the care that I give to my own. And please help me to always grow in loving my own better and better. Lord, in all things, I am Your humble servant. I love You with all that I am. Amen.
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