Monday, August 10, 2015

What I Learned While My Son Was At Camp

"Look! I am the Eternal, the God of all living things. Is anything too difficult for Me?"
~ Jeremiah 32:27, VOICE ~

Our son just returned from a week at camp.  A common summer ritual for many, I know, but this has been a MAJOR source of angst as well as progress in our family.  All you have to do is click on the label "camp" in the right-hand column here, and you can read about our years of marvelous misadventures.

Yet, this year was different in a whole host of ways.  Our son is now 15 years old, so he qualified to be a "Counselor In Training" or CIT.  I was thrilled that he wanted to take that step forward rather than attend as just a camper for one last year.  The reality of his growth really began to hit me as I filled out the additional paperwork for this new role.

It was also different this year because neither of his sisters would be attending camp with him.  His older sister, who has attended camp as many years as he, was committed to her job before heading to college.  His younger sister was technically not qualified for camp, as we discovered last year that she had been misdiagnosed by our treatment center for over twelve years.  Only affected kids and siblings that are carriers of the disorder are allowed to go, so this ruled the youngest out.  This year at camp was going to be all about our son, his new experiences, and his growing friendships.

Another way this year was going to be different was that the last time our son had been at this camp, it was the very first time he had self-infused, administering his own IV-push away from home.  Having battled with anxiety and PTSD, this was a major deal.  We held our breath hoping he could get it done.  To our great delight, he finally got his award for self-infusing at camp!  With that accomplishment behind him, the concern that he wasn't going to be able to execute that serious personal task was just GONE.  It was amazing to not have that feeling weighing on me as we got him ready to go.

While he was a bit nervous on our nearly 3 hour ride to camp, it felt like there was nothing but upside in store for our son this year.  What a remarkable feeling!  All those years of relentless struggle felt like they would never end.  Suddenly, here we were.  My prayer was that this year at camp would help strengthen his self-confidence after having the opportunity to see how far he had come.

I missed him in a new and different way this year.  Having received miserable phone calls the first day after we had dropped him off, I was used to this being a tense week for me.  Trauma, injury, and even an inability to sleep had the habit of turning this into a challenging time apart.  It is hard to get your mind off of your child's diagnosis when it has you on high alert like this.  To my great delight, there were ZERO phone calls this year.

Because the great turmoil involved with our teen's bleeding disorder was a non-issue, my longing for our son focused completely on who he is as a person.  I missed his company as a fellow early-riser in our home.  The vacant quiet in the absence of his laugh seemed painful.  Funny expressions of his rang in my brain as we carried on family meals without him.  His loving demeanor left a void.  Thank God he was only gone for a week!  This felt like an awfully rough conditioning for what it will be like in a few years when he leaves for college!

Yes, I checked out the few photos the camp shared from the week online.  It warmed my heart to see him coming into his own, looking like he was having a good time.

Once we arrived for pick-up this weekend, he nearly knocked us over with hugs.  His joy was not only propelled by seeing us, but also by having a terrific experience.

Words can barely express the profound feeling of having our son come full-circle with camp.  The staff raved about what a hard worker he was, barely believing this was the same boy who nearly had to be sat upon to administer an IV a few years ago.  Everyone from the camp medical staff to the directors and counselors had the opportunity to revel in the results of their years of hard work.  The patience, perseverance, and care poured into him had paid off.  

Not only that, but this investment is beginning to pay dividends.  Our hope for each of our children is that they would give back to the community that has poured into them.  "Blessed to be a blessing," isn't just a pithy saying in our home.  It is a way of life, and one we are thrilled to see our son embrace.

Friends, I share this anecdote to encourage you.  I learned that some hopes can come to a place of fulfillment in this lifetime.  I learned that we can come to a place where we just enjoy our kids for the unique individuals they are apart from their diagnoses.  I learned that insurmountable and lingering difficulties do not look that way to God.  We can feel that things will never improve with our kids, year after year, despite our best efforts.  Don't give up!  As today's Bible verse reminds us all, there is NOTHING to difficult for our God, even if it feels that way at times.  Before we know it, all the tireless effort can finally yield results.  Suddenly, we get to enjoy our kids in new and shining ways, as vastly more than their diagnoses and the accompanying concerns.

PRAY:  Father, thank You for every victory with our children, large and small.  Help us to remember that even when life feels unbelievably difficult, there is no trial that You cannot helps us survive and overcome.

~ Barb Dittrich

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