Camp is full of firsts for our girls. First time to the beach, first ice cream cone, first time eating in a restaurant, first time taking on some adventure that scares them, but is safe. Things that push their limits and prove they have what it takes inside of them. Learning to swim, learning to surf, hiking higher and farther than they thought they could, zip lining, riding in an open air truck singing songs and being way more silly than they ever imagined would be allowed, playing and even enjoying the darkness of the night.
Camp is full of new memories and opportunities to not only share and play with girls, but speak life into their brokenness.
She wasn’t sure where she fit, if she fit.
She would use tears to find out if we would be there to provide care.
She would use outbursts to discover who was in control.
Could we handle her?
Would we provide her every need or did she need to fight, manipulate and negotiate for herself?
Her emotions rarely matched the vibe of the group. And that was exhausting, but it was our opportunity to prove that, “We got you”. I like to give kids space to kick and scream, but stay near so they know we see them and they are not alone. When they are heartbroken or disappointed I sit near and pray and provide touch if they allow it.
I consider myself pretty strong willed, but I often wonder if I’ve found my match. I am often taken to the edge of my own will.
This particular night everyone received a pair of tennis shoes with their name on the package sized in advance for a perfect match. They were going to design their own shoes with sharpie markers. But because she was new, there wasn’t a pair packed with her name on them and in fact there was not the perfect size. I was able to find a pair 1/2 size too big, exactly the way my mom always bought them for me with one thumb of wiggle room. But she was not having it.
We refused the shoes no matter how we tried to present or package them. She was sad and mad and demanding a different shoe. She began crying loudly and then progressing into kicking and screaming and hitting her legs with her pounding fists.
I cleared the space and tried to get the others busy on the next step of the task, while I sat with her. I knew this wasn’t the time to reason. So I waited trying to share my peace with her, singing softly, praying silently, modeling calm deep breaths and slowing touching her shoulder. She finally began to demand with words. I began to talk a bit about the situation and she listened, but never stopped crying. Weeping without a single tear.
Finally, I asked her what she was really mad about? Her reaction did not match the situation. I wasn’t sure she could figure out what she was mad about or put it into words, but I wanted to plant the idea that maybe she has lots to rage about and the shoes had simply provided an opening for her get out some of her big emotions.
She tried to stop and I helped her breath through it, co-regulating with her as we cooled off an imaginary bowl of soup. Then she was able to reason about the shoes, and I found a pair of socks to make them fit the way she wanted. The girls were well into the project by now, but she joined the group and giggled with the rest of them as she decorated her tennis shoes.
The next night in devotions she shared a bit of the beginning of her story and a little insight as to why she rages and weeps at every turn.
“When my dad died, I looked at the coffin and I wanted to climb in with him. I just wanted to disappear with him forever.”
Each outburst, crisis and weeping fit is an opportunity to enter into their pain and walk with them through it.
Strong and tender
Firm and loving
No. Matter. What