My oldest son is turning 16 this summer and the scariest part isn’t that he’ll start driving. The scary part is the reality that’s slowly sinking in that in just two more years he will be headed off to college. Moving out. Becoming independent.
When they’re little, they seem to grow up fast: learning how to smile, then crawl, a few words, walking. But at this age, the new milestones just fly by. And the realization that they really won’t be at home forever has me thinking about the time we do have a little differently.
If you’re a parent, you know that babies and toddlers demand your attention. Diapers don’t change themselves, and those adorable little kiddos require constant supervision. You can’t help but spend the better part of your time engaged with them at some level, even if it’s just trying to keep them from destroying the house.
But as my kids get older, I realize that I have to be intentional about carving out time with them. They go from event to event, activity to activity, requiring very little from me except five bucks for lunch and a ride to the church.
Instead of handing over cash for a meal on the road, I stop and eat it with them. Instead of cruising from the track meet to youth group, I’ll stop to put gas in the car and surprise them with an ice cream cone. It’s during these little extended moments together that we have the conversations about what matters to them, what worries them, and what they’re excited about. You see, what I’m learning is that as our kids get older, they don’t just need time with us, they need us to be intentional about the time we do have with them.
Unfortunately, we can’t accomplish everything we need to as parents in the in-between times. That’s why it’s important to take time together away: away from routines, away from cell phone service, away from TV, and away from the everyday demands of daily life.
If you ask my kids what the best part of our recent vacation to the Palo Duro Canyon was, they’ll tell you the great mountain biking trails. And if you ask them about the second best thing, they will tell you it was that my cell phone didn’t have service. Instead of checking in on things at work, or on my friends on Facebook, I checked in on them. I watched the stars with them. I hiked with them. And they loved it.
They loved the change in routine, the focused attention, and the time together as a family.
All these things are why I’m more excited every day about the family camps we’ll be hosting at SpringHill this summer and fall: they are intentional times for families to get away and just be together. At family camp, there are plenty of in-between times: waiting in line for the zipline, walking to the dining hall, getting the fire started. Even the drive to camp. But there’s also tons of time to just be together, enjoying the beauty of creation, worshipping side-by-side in the outdoor amphitheater, and tackling the many challenges that camp offers.
My hunch is that if we check in after their weekend at Family Camp and ask kids what their favorite part was, most of them will say the blobs, the horseback riding, and the riflery, but if we ask them what the second best part was, they’ll say it was spending time with you.
This blog post was contributed by our Retreats Director, Eric Woods. Eric is a husband, a father of 3 and has a passion for family & youth ministry, which he writes about on his blog. He also takes great pictures of his backyard all over social media.
We'd love to hear how your experience at SpringHill has impacted your life. Whether it was an experience from this past summer or you're reflecting back on years ago we always encourage sharing of how God is working through SpringHill.