In fact, it’s the same camp up in the mountains that I went to when I was her age and even counseled at when I was older–it’s wonderful. Beautiful, filled with trees and more outdoor activities than you can imagine. Kids come up maybe not knowing each other, and become best friends over milkshakes, blackberry hikes and A-ha personal growth moments as they read their bibles together under the stars.
When Andrew and I first heard about camp, we initially wondered if she was ready to go. We talked with her about it, prayed about it, and when it seemed like the perfect fit, we started making preparations for Maria, big and small.
First was the sleeping bag. All the kids had to test it out to make sure it was the right fit.
She got a new bathing suit and board shorts. I pulled out my travel bag, first time since Russia finding mini shampoos and soaps, piling them on her bed.
“Wow, mama!” she squealed excitedly. “So cool, so many cool things for me for camp! So cool stuff!” Haha, I love her zeal for life, her appreciation for the smallest, (literally), things.
“What Maria do at camp?” and we pulled out the list, three columns wide of all the activities.
“SO EXCITING!” She would beam. “And, what is polar bearing?”
“Do it!” we told her.
We talked about how she would sleep there for 5 nights in a cabin with a bunch of girls her age, and when she was done, Mommy and Daddy would be waiting so excited to pick her up. We’d ask her,
“Are you excited for camp?”
“SO EXCITING!! And also, maybe sad?” she wondered.
We’ve been working on feeling words, and working on talking about feelings, totally new to her, and a new style of parenting for us. “Why maybe sad?”
“Maybe Maria miss mama and papa?”
“Yes. And that’s ok. If you feel lonely or sad, you can pray and Jesus is right there with you. Plus, you’ll be so busy with all of your friends!” We were particularly emphasizing the friends.
We spent the day before as a family with special moments, and a special dinner. “Papa, I want you play dolls with me, please?”
“Oooooooooo-kay,” he smiled, as he won the parent of the year award. In fact, he does that often.
He was even the one to carefully research the best way to quit thumb sucking for older kids a couple months before camp, and found the three tried and tested reasons to tell your kids. “Yeah, plus you might get a snaggle tooth,” I added after he had just worked his magic. He shot me a look, “That’s not one of the reasons to bring up,” he told me gently, “You have to make it only positive…”
“Oh, whoops! Just kidding, listen to papa about that…” ( My husband seriously is so awesome. I love that he knew, and really took the time to know. Our adoption has proved to show so many of his hidden talents.) She quit cold turkey, and was so excited about it.
We had a pre-camp dinner of roasted hot dogs and picked strawberries before we made s’mores which was awesome because there were no dishes after so we could finish packing.
We played with the kids on the amazing playset Andrew brought back to life from someone’s side yard (thank you Owens!)
And the next morning was the day of camp!
The boys are very attached to Maria, so they gave her big squeezes before she left.
“Bye Mawea, I wuv you. I go a camp wif you too…” He said, matter-of-factly, and then I died of cute. And she giggled, knowing it was just for big girls.
|“Um, hey guys, can I please exit first?” -Elijah
Maria’s super cute counselor made all the girls matching shirts with their names and hearts and flowers puff painted all over them, and they all piled in the bus together. Maria usually gets really shy with kids her own age, but has recently expressed a desire to have some closer friends, while before she was focused on mommy and daddy only.
And when we saw them all sitting, a bunch of girls welcoming and inviting to her, her sweet, young counselor ready to show the girls so much love, it was a very rewarding experience, in fact, a moment we couldn’t even quite believe we were experiencing.
“Look at her…” we said. A little girl, once so frail and shy. Once not able to sit though a church service without us, couldn’t sit in school without sucking her thumb, didn’t want friends her own age, only mama and papa and brothers, now confident enough for the first time, confident in the parents who love her to pieces to have her first ever time at camp, to grow, have fun, make friends and live life.
Please pray for Maria to learn so much while at camp, to have the very best time like all the other family kids up there, to learn so much about the God who loves her more than we could ever fathom and to make some great, life long friends.
Seriously, so cool.
Because, if imma be honest, if there was anything that would have kept us from adopting, it would have been this very subject, which is why i bring it up, because no fear could have been so far off base for us 🙂