Last week my bride Marie and my older daughter McKinley were away at Pine Cove, a Christian Camp. (Aside shout out endorsement to Pine Cove! Jesus’ Life and Fun and Joy and Love are all over that place.)
While Mommy and Sissy were away, Marie and I damage controlled Delaney’s not being old enough to go by half-bribing her with what we quickly dubbed “Daddy Camp.”
Well, it worked.
Delaney bought the bribe hook-line-and-sinker – and “Daddy Camp” was instantly overbooked with activities:
- Painting Daddy’s car windshield
- Monsters University movie
- Picnic Party with school friends
- Littlest Pet Shop Marathon
- Sidewalk chalk
- Hair and nail salon (don’t judge me – I have girls)
- 4th of July Ranger game with fireworks
And then there’s all the little things that we did that we don’t normally do (“Please Daddy (with batting eyelids) – since it’s “Daddy Camp?!”):
- Go to work every day with Daddy
- Shower in “Mommy in Daddy’s BIG shower” instead of normal bathtime
- Sleeping in “Mommy and Daddy’s BIG bed”
- Making Star shaped ham and cheese sandwiches
- Allowing that 1 (2? 3?) extra sweet or drink
- Standing up through the sunroof riding in the car (I promise, only from the entrance of the neighborhood to our house)
I am exhausted.
And I am so full of joy in a new way.
I learned something that I already knew (know what I’m talkin’ about there) while at “Daddy Camp.”
Kids come alive in new ways when it’s just you and them.
Somewhere in a file I have a printed “Goals” sheet for one of the New Year’s a few years back. On it lists a goal of intentionally having “Daddy-Daughter Date Nights.” I have done this with both girls, but regrettably not as much as I had intended…
…and definitely not as much as I should.
It’s not a “date night” per se that they (and I) need. But they (and I) do need time alone together.
Just me and one of them.
In today’s society it is difficult enough to carve out a date with your spouse, to have “family time” together, and then to spend time alone as a parent with your kid(s). But I am convicted that as critical as all of those are – I need to go one step further – and that is to carve out intentional, extended one-on-one time for each individual kid.
To that point, here are 5 things Jesus taught me while I was at “Daddy Camp”:
1) I see deeper into my child when it’s just me and them. Delaney is our full of joy and exuberance, independent child. She’s a peach – and a handful. What was stunning about having a week alone with her is how her joyful nature and exuberance were magnified in new ways – while the frustrations that sometimes come with her strong will – were minimized, almost non-existent. I don’t know if it was because of a lack of distractions, and thus my focus on just her, that I saw so much of her joy that the frustrations were insignificant by comparison; or if it was my focus on her itself that drove any disobedience away. Either way, she was different. She came alive in a deeper way. She was the same wonderful Delaney – but more.
I think intentional love shown and expressed in a way that is laser-focused and not distracted has a way of bringing out our authentic selves. It is the same way you can see the transformation in a “new life” once it has truly received Christ’s Love. His love is not distracted. It is laser-like. It is transformative and life-changing. It brings out who we authentically are. We can give a measure of that to our kids when we show them that for this space in time – it’s just us and them.
2) My child sees deeper into me when it’s just them and me. Delaney was engaged with me at a level that I had not seen in my 5 blessed years of life with her. She poured herself into me and what we were doing together – no matter what that was. She asked me insightful questions. She listened (she actually listened!!) when I talked to her. She seemed captivated by me and my presence. She even said “Daddy” with a different ring and tone than she usually does – one that exuded a playful admiration that melted me. I felt like the same Daddy – but more.
She was expressing to me that same laser-focused love, free of other distractions. I became her world, and she launched herself into it. It’s the same way we draw near to Father out of a response to His Love of us. We can only truly love out of the Love He has given us. A receipt of that Love prompts a response of returning that Love back to Him. We become captivated by His Presence in us and we launch ourselves into His Life. We listen, actually listen to His voice. We call His name with a different ring and tone to it – and I bet He is melted by that. In a similar way when our kids are given our truest love – they return it to us in ways that are unusually deep.
3) I can only really look at one set of eyes at a time. So often, with well-intentioned hearts, I think we desire to have a meaningful impact on people. Lots of people. Change the world. I’ll speak for myself in this regard, anyways. The natural inclination is to reach as many people as quickly as you can. My experience this week with Delaney reminds me that any meaningful impartation of Life truly only happens eyeball to eyeball – one person to another person – at a time.
I want my girls to be launched from my home (in an ever-increasingly few short years) with my current high point of living by the Spirit of Christ as their floor. The most effective way for them to be discipled to that level will be in those little times alone together, eyeball to eyeball – heart to heart.
4) If I can shepherd one, I can shepherd many. Relative to the above, before I can tackle discipleship of the world, I need to disciple my home. Before I consider the big Church, I need to master the little church. If I want to shepherd many to Christ, I need to shepherd my small flock of 2.
I think this is an example of one of those “little things” Jesus tells us to be responsible with before we are handed “much” to look after. I am not implying that our children and our shepherding of them is in any way little. But if we have our sights set on going into all the world before we go into all the bedrooms in our own home – we’ve not been responsible with the “little things,” and will never be handed the keys to the “big things.” It may not be my life in Christ that reaches multitudes or shapes a generation. But it may be one of my daughters’ life in Christ. This starts with me shepherding that life, one on one.
5) I am thankful I am not alone. My week alone with Delaney prompted me to give thanks. I am thankful for my bride. I am thankful that while my intentional pouring into my kids is critical, that they will also be poured into by their Mommy, which is equally critical. I am thankful that my girls have an opportunity, if their parents steward things well, to see Jesus in diverse and powerful ways from not just one, but two.
If you are a parent favored with kiddos still in the nest, I hope you can relate to this in some way, and that it blesses you. If you don’t have kids or your’s are grown and gone – thanks for sticking around and reading to this point!
It is often said that “our children are our future.” While I don’t disagree, I believe the future is now in regards to our kids. We have the power to speak life or death into them. We can change their lives and have ours changed in the process. Doing so is not easy – it takes work.
A. Lot. Of. Work.
But it is worth it, for them, and for us.
Get alone with your child (or a child in your life). Pour into them and watch them pour into you. Look at their eyes only and speak into their heart. Shepherd that life in that space in time.
For me, I find Jesus in those moments. And Heaven along with Him.