July 17, 2014
Some experiences act as milestones in life: college graduation, wedding, a child’s birth.
Today, Susie Ma’am and I had a slightly unexpected milestone.
Earlier this week, the oldest Senior Campers (17-18 year olds) went on a three-day retreat to the Davis Mountains in West Texas. During the trip, each Senior Camper wrote a personal mission statement.
These mission statements are not about what career they will pursue or where they will live. Instead, they are assertions about what they will value, who they will be. The Senior Campers literally write them on a mountain-top. They then share them with each other, soliciting feedback. Often, the first draft is self-conscious or forced. Their fellow Senior Campers (who know them incredibly well) help bring out honestly and authenticity.
Over the years, we have heard some deeply moving thoughts. These young people are committed to making a contribution. They are willing to be honest with themselves and with others.
We have a special dinner with them tonight where we cook in our wood-fired oven. They have sautéed vegetables, Portobello mushrooms with balsamic vinegar, steaks, artisan sausages and salmon. It is more feast than dinner.
After that, they come into the house and read their mission statements.
Here is why today is a milestone. Our twin sons are among the 22 Senior Campers who shared their mission statements today.
17 years ago, our twins were born prematurely. At birth, they fit into my hand. They spent 4 weeks in the neonatal ICU at the hospital.
Now the arc of their lives as campers is drawing to an end. On Saturday, they will be graduates of the Senior Camper program. For 11 summers, they have been campers like your children. Now, they are really young men.
As parents, we often fail to see how much our children grow. When we look at them, we sorta see them as they currently are, but we also can conjure the images of them as awkward 10 year-olds, as wobbling bike riders, as toddlers.
As babies that fit into your hand.
Seeing them read about the men they will become, the veil of childhood is truly lifted. I see only adults. College is coming soon. They will be embracing and challenging life without us.
This realization is so exciting, but it comes with a touch of melancholy.
We only get so much time with them. Soon, they will share their talents with the world. I like that, but know that I will miss them.
We have protected and provided for them for years. We have also (hopefully) prepared them. Now, they become our gift to the world. I think the world will like this gift.