Not long ago, my husband and I were rushing out the door like chickens with our heads cut off to drop the kids off at their 7:45-8:15 check-in time at camp. Keep in mind, signing the kids up for a week-long day camp after 4th of July late-night fireworks may not have been wise, but who wants to listen to sibling rivalry all summer long?
After a successful drop-off, running errands, and having our neighbors over for sub sandwiches, 5:00 pm parent pick-up came fast.
As the kids shuffled in our suburban, the first words out of their mouths were, “It was soo boring Mom! Don’t take us there again. Why did you sign us up? We barely had time to eat our lunch…”
Their hearts grew unhappy with each complaint, and my head was throbbing.
I thought, who in the world am I raising? Will they ever be grateful?
I knew they were overtired, exhausted, and hungry, but their constant whining was a huge discouragement. Not to mention we spent a pretty penny on camp. My husband rolled his eyes from the fuss and called in Dominos for dinner.
Embracing Teachable Moments
On our ride home, it got me thinking about how to handle my kids’ discontent with Day 1. How can this be a teachable moment? They were filtering everything about the day through the lens of being dead-beat.
I told the kids they needed to adjust their attitude. I then talked about the people there at camp:
“Well, I guess if you’re bored, then you need to focus on your relationships…
Did you make a friend?
Who were you kind to?
How can you be a good friend to someone who seems lonely?
Did you enjoy getting to know your counselor?”
Their response was to compare this camp to their old camp that had chestnut-colored horses and fast four-wheelers.
“Well kids, this is not the country anymore. We’re in the city. You were spoiled!” I explained.
Fight the Spiritual Battle & Don’t Lose Hope
After the dinner and bedtime routine, I prayed they’d begin to enjoy their time and focus on new friendships. Every parent just wants their kids to grow and have fun in the summer. Why the constant tug-of-war match?
Then I remembered the battle and anything of spiritual significance will come with a fight against the Enemy who hates community. He’d rather us be sulking and isolated. The issue was not just that the kids were bored. It wasn’t just that they were exhausted. Satan didn’t want them enjoying abundant life in Christ. He didn’t want them to find joy in knowing others and His word.
So I prayed harder. This battle had to be fought through prayer. There was more going on than what my eyes could see.
Go Love Hard on People
On Day 2 of camp, my 9 and 8-year-olds were all dressed and ready that morning without me having to bribe or intervene. The kids rode home chatty and smiling about the friends they made. My 12-year-old exchanged numbers with his friends. My 10-year-old talked about funny stories her counselor shared around circle time.
They were beginning to value the people God had put at camp with them. We were making progress, thank goodness. It reminded me of these verses:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 27:37-40
Love the Lord with all you’ve got. Then, go love hard on other people. His commands are not burdensome and complicated as we often make them out to be.
Truth is, our children are looking for fulfillment and purpose just like us. They won’t find it in living for themselves. They won’t find it by complaining. They won’t be satisfied with a program alone. But, they absolutely will find it in first loving Jesus and their neighbor- the ultimate prize.
In the future, my kids will whine again. But when they do, I pray they’ll instead replace their complaints with valuing the relationships God has put in their life. I pray they change lives for God’s glory.
Let it begin with me.
Samantha Krieger is a wife, mom, and author writing from Florida’s gulf coast. She’s the author of Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. Her writing appears regularly on Her View From Home, TODAY Parenting, and For the Family. She starts her mornings with coffee and mascara. Connect with her on her blog, Instagram and Facebook.