I have come to believe parenting is the single most challenging privilege I will ever experience. The rush of responsibility in holding a new infant, the joy of first steps, the worrisome late nights of illness, the hours of backyard batting practice, and nights of just one more book. So many memories already made with so many more to come, and yet I sometimes struggle to know when I need to sit back and let my children step out on their own.
This last week my boys attended our churches summer program that is often referred to as VBS on steroids. It’s an event they look forward to all year. It’s four crazy days filled with activities, fun and friends, followed by an evening dinner for campers and their families. A couple of nights there are even family activities.
I knew my son would remain with his class during the second evening. It was the night the older kids were going to be having a sleepover, and for the first year he was old enough. He had been talking about it for days.
When we entered the dining area with our younger camper, I spotted my son sitting with his class. He flashed me a big smile from across the room and an excited wave. No sooner had we gotten our plates and sat in a different area, he came to join us. He offered an excited explanation that his camp leader said he could have dinner with us.
My kids haven’t ever really slept away from home without us. I recall when the oldest boys were younger, they would occasionally spend the night at grandma’s house down the street. We no longer live close to family, so going to grandma’s is a family affair.
My son sat across from me, chattering non-stop about his day. He didn’t jump up when a friend called out to him. He gave a cheerful call back that he was eating with his family.
As plates were cleared and dessert was made available, my son came around the table to where I was sitting. He stood close so his side was just touching mine. It was common behavior for my kids. A quick connection of reassurance, and then they would be off again. This evening he did not move away. I gave his back a gentle rub, and rested my arm around him. As he shared his excitement for his evening ahead I wondered if he realized this would be his first real sleepover away from his family.
When his class began lining up, he knew it was time to leave. He gave me a warm hug and big smile before I watched him walk away. As he took his place in line behind a friend, he turned back and flashed me another big smile. I returned his smile and gave him a reassuring wave. I silently prayed,
Lord thank you for this child you have entrusted to me
Please watch over him tonight…..
I prayed for my son. I prayed for all the campers. I prayed for the many volunteers. I knew this sleepover was a sort of rite of passage. I was thankful for the experience to be during an event that was so special to him.
My son came home with many stories of his sleepover. Late night jokes with his friends and silly songs they made up. All were full of boy humor that I gently discouraged. His bag reeked of boy smells, and I made a mental note to be sure to wash the sleeping bag.
Even after camp was over, stories continued to be told of all the fun they had and lessons learned. One evening as I was making dinner, my son joined me in the kitchen and began pouring glasses of milk. As he stood next to me at the counter he quietly asked, “Hey, mom, did you know that was my first ever sleepover without you guys?” I paused thoughtfully and responded, “My goodness, I think you’re right.” Before gathering cups to leave the kitchen, he stepped sideways and gently bumped into my side while flashing a satisfied smile.
I said a silent prayer of thanks.