While I’ve been the one going to camp as a leader and leaving our son with his grandparents for the week, more often over the past few years, I’ve been at home with the kids while Sean takes kids to camp. It can be a long week parenting solo…for me and for our kids who miss their daddy! Here’s some ideas to help make it through the week:
For the parent leading at camp…
- Pray for your kids daily. I mean your own children; I’m sure you will be praying for your club kids while you’re at camp 🙂 And pray for your spouse, or whoever is watching them while you are away! They will all need it.
- Call when you can. I know it is hard to find time, especially in the first few days when the camp schedule is packed. Also, it’s hard to find a time and place to use your cell phone when campers aren’t around to get angry because you still have your phone. But they need to hear your voice. Also, people will ask your spouse how things are going at camp and it is great to be able to give them an update!
- If you can’t call when your kids are awake, leave a voice mail that they can listen to the next day. Our kids will listen to the messages from daddy over and over when they miss him. It helps them to feel loved, remembered, and connected.
- Leave little notes and surprises for those at home. These can be as simple as a pack of gum, a little toy, or a $1 to go rent a Redbox movie (bonus…also gives a break to the parent!). Our kids LOVE the notes and drawings, too! Spread them out through the week!
- Bring them home a gift. Sean often buys me a t-shirt…not that I need another Young Life t-shirt, but I love it that he takes the time to find one he thinks I’ll like! I know he gets help from our female leaders, to, which they think is so fun 🙂 The kids like pretty much anything…small or big, Young Life related or not. They just want to know that daddy was thinking of them!
For the parent staying home…
- Pray for your spouse while he or she is leading at camp. This one seems obvious, but is so important! Pray with your kids for their parent and also for the other leaders and kids they might know. Pray specifically by name. This opportunity shows my kids the power of prayer and they know that staying and praying is as important a job as going and leading!
- On that note, let your kids know how they are a part of the mission. Sean and I talk about our family as “Team McGever” because each person plays a role in “telling the big kids about Jesus.” They know that by sharing daddy with our “big kid friends” for the week, they’re sharing the love of Jesus and this means a lot to them!
- Ok, onto more practical ideas…plan some down time! This can mean getting a babysitter or friend to take the kids for a while to give you all a break from each other or it can mean having a movie night. Just something to give me the break I need from the kids and they break they need from me!
- Plan some fun things! Eat out, be it Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Chuck E. Cheese, or someplace nicer. Do something out of the ordinary…a picnic, breakfast for dinner, whatever. It just helps to mix things up and give your kids something special about the week to tell about when the leader parent comes home.
- Get together with friends, maybe even other families who have a parent at camp. It’s fun, it’s a break, it’s nice to have another adult to talk with, and it’s fun for the kids to be around another family for whom this is a normal part of life.
- Send a package or letters to the parent at camp. I don’t always get this done just because of the time it takes packages to get to camp, but when we do, the kids love it! They want daddy to know that they’re thinking of him 🙂 Sometimes, we sneak into daddy’s suitcase before hand and hide top secret stuff for him to find. This is also a hit, it just takes even more advanced planning!
Lastly, know that each of you will be tired in very different ways when the parent who was leading at camp comes home! The week can be exhausting and draining, even though it’s fun and amazing to see lives changed and hard work come to fruition. Give each other grace and ask the Lord to help you to keep serving even after you reunite at the bus 🙂 Plan a day for rest and give it a few days for things to return to normal. Whether you are staying home or leading at camp, it’s the Lord’s work!