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Confessions of an Idealist

July 10, 2013

She was brave until the meeting room filled up with loud, excited kids, some twice her age. When she met her Counselor, the reality of saying goodbye and spending 3 nights with these people, settled down heavy on her courage and bravado, smothering the strength visible just moments before.

Sophie on Bunk

She is seven. And I left her at camp.

Eagle Lake

I stole one last glance as parents were ushered out. She was squatting against a wall, face steeled against tears, body rigid with resistance. I saw on her face the Bruno determination. I will do this. I will be okay. It’s not an option.

Oh dear, what have we created? What have I done?

I think about the previous 48 hours. Thinking it would be fun to camp on the way, we packed tubs of gear, hauled my in-laws’ ATVs, shoved river tubes into crevices. Above the roof we piled the kids’ camp supplies and at our feet we layered what we would need for our 3 day getaway without them. At the time of planning, we thought all this would be more fun, cheaper, and easier than it all turned out to be.

On a stroll through a mountain town, in search of ice cream, I started to get paranoid. Why hadn’t I received any confirmation from their camp? Checking the website, I realized their physicals were due a month ago. We spent hours in panic, looking for a printer, an urgent care in the vicinity. The next morning, we struck camp and pulled out by 8:30. We were at Walgreens Clinic by 10am for 3 emergency physicals. I clearly have too much going on.

And then the car started to sputter.

Sunday morning my husband was surfing online under the covers on the floor of our hotel room, looking for an open mechanic. We had to get up the mountain to camp by 1:00. More anxiety.

So when we finally got our coffee in hand, 3 kids left at camp, car fixed, headed to our three-day getaway, we started to wonder…

Why do we always make things harder? Expect so much of ourselves and our children? Downplay the effort our plans require?

It’s not just vacations, but the story of our lives. We have traversed the world, with little guys in tow, and exhausted ourselves in the process. Simultaneously went to graduate school. Launched two non-profits the same year we moved across the country. And countless other decisions that seemed good at the time and we regretted in the midst and promptly forgot at the conclusion.

My name is Beth and I’m an idealist. And I’m married to an over achiever. It’s a scary combo.

While there may not be much hope for us, I am concerned about what we are transmitting to our children. Courage is one thing. Fear of failure or letting down the family is quite another. Do our kids feel the freedom to be weak? Do they feel pressured to live purpose driven, principle filled lives?

We had had a few months of wedded bliss when we wrote a mission statement for our marriage. It seemed right to codify who we were and what we were going to be about. Our mission statement expressed our desire for radical obedience to God and pointed to our need for adventure. It has defined our lives.

But when I think of my little girl, struggling not to cry and willing herself to be brave, shoved up against a sturdy and protective wall in a sea of screaming campers, I have to wonder if the intentionality of my life has a negative impact on hers. Is she free to be less determined? Is she free to be less ambitious? Less idealistic about what she is capable of doing?

The verdict is out. She is still at camp. As for me, I’m going to consider those all-inclusive vacations for next year and try to lower the bar of what I expect from my plans. When the balls start dropping, it’s a wake up call that my strengths have weakened me. And that’s okay.

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