Camping. Does it bring up memories of roasting marshmallows, telling stories and sleeping under the stars? Three years ago our family tried our hand at camping. It was memorable. In many ways.
Ashley had been with us for just over a year when we signed up for a family camping weekend through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It was a two day adventure where a guide taught us how to set up a tent, kayak, build a fire and other camping related activities. We were ready to learn some new skills and have a great time.
Let's just say we learned some new skills.
In the late afternoon of the first day, after setting up our tent and eating lunch, we headed down to the lake for an introductory fishing class. It was titled "Family Fun Fishing for Everyone." We had our poles and the instructor was teaching us how to cast and how to avoid hazards. Ashley was struggling to control her line and was getting frustrated. I could tell she was starting to lose it and told her to take a break. Fishing was optional and she didn't have to do it. I'm sure my words were not as patient or understanding as I remember them and something about what I said sent her over the edge.
At that moment Ashley did something unexpected. She took off. By the grace of God, in that vast forest, I caught her by the hand. Barely hanging on to the end of a few fingers I held on with everything in me as her eleven year old body fought against me. After a few moments (it felt like an eternity) she calmed down.
It taught me something very important about raising (and teaching) children. They can be completely unpredictable. Have you ever thought you had your children pegged? You knew them inside and out. You could predict their words and actions in any given situation. Then one day they throw you a completely out of the blue curveball. That's what happened to me that day at the lake.
Our students can be like that. He's a great kid, always has his work, attentive in class, helpful, polite, and then he cheats on a test. She's always so pleasant in class, helps other students, a by the book rule follower and then she steals another kid's phone.
We can't predict those curveballs. We just can't see them coming, but we can learn to be ready for them. We can't as parents (or teachers) let our guards down. We can't assume our kid won't lie, or cheat, or steal. The truth is we all have it in us. If our kids stumble, then we help them back up. If they fall, then we dust them off and teach them how to make better choices next time. We hold them accountable. We help them practice self control. We love them even when they make the wrong choice.
Almost losing Ashley in that forest showed me that her bad choice was manageable when I was close by to help. I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if God hadn't allowed me to catch that hand. How far would she have run? Where would she have ended up? Could I have found her? Would she have been safe? Thankfully, I never had to answer those questions.
Let's stick close to our kids. Let's be there when they have questions or when they're struggling to make a right choice. Let's help them along the way by being present. We never know when they might throw us a curve ball, but we'll have a much better chance at hitting it if we're paying attention to the pitcher.