After being a part of Girl Scouts throughout elementary school, I signed up to go to Camp Latonka with my BFF, Michelle. It was the summer of our 5th grade year. Those days still rank as one of the worst weeks of my entire life. It rained every single day. There were multiple thunderstorms and tornados. We could hear the emergency sirens every night. The lake was nasty and it turned our swimwear the color of mud. Our cabin, if you could call it that, was really just a huge screened in porch with four half walls and a screen door. The extra humid air allowed everything to mildew at a rapid rate. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
On the second day, a girl from another cabin, who couldn’t stop crying from being so homesick, was out front with her mom. The mom gave her child a hug and told her she wasn’t allowed to take her home and she (the mom) didn’t want to. (I will never forget how devastated that girl looked. Deflated. Sad.) Somewhere in the back of my brain I wondered, “…if my mom drove out here would she ‘Benedict Arnold’ me by bringing brownies to my college aged captors and not letting me in her car?” I wasn’t sure.
The rain was relentless and all the girls in my cabin were scared of the storms. Half of them left for home during days three and four.
On the camp list we were told to bring stationary and stamps. We were encouraged to write home to tell our parents how fabulous we were doing and how much we loved everything. Since most activities were too water logged to use, I wrote home every day during the massive amounts of free time we had. I think it intensified my want to be back home.
In my day three letter, I told my parents everything. I talked about the tornado sirens. I talked about the counselors never being around after dark. I talked about the torrential rain. I talked about how scary this whole week had been. In that letter, I begged and begged my parents to come get me. I didn’t anticipate them getting the letter before I got home but it just felt good to send it.
Thursday afternoon (day five) during one sunny reprieve, our counselors told us we were going to scrape barnacles off a boat. (Not kidding.) I determined never to go back.
Coincidentally, on day five my mom received my desperate letter in the mail.
My dad owned a heating and cooling company when I was growing up. One of the things he loved desperately was a radio communication system made for business use. We had the main base console in our office at home and each service truck had a mobile unit. Other businesses had the same system and a lot of times people had to wait their turn to communicate with their employees. My dad was a military guy to the core. Even though other people would say, “Hey Darla. I need you to call Mrs. Smith so I can deliver her products.” My dad wouldn’t allow that casual conversation out of his business. He insisted upon “10–4-ing” and “Clear-ing” . They had specialty names for each individual and while I can’t remember most, my dad was The Condenser Man.
On the afternoon my mom got my letter, the conversation had to go something like this:
“Base to Condenser Man. Base to Condenser Man.”
“This is the Condenser Man. Go ahead.”
“We received a letter today from our daughter. (My mom read the letter over the dispatch system.)”
“What do you want to do Condenser Man?” (I’m told there was a bit of silence on the line.)
At this point one of the other servicemen jumped in the conversation and said, “Mike, if you don’t go get that girl, I’m going to go get her myself. Unit 2 Clear.”
Just like that, my dad finished up the job he was on and he headed to find me.
We had been scraping the dumb boat hull for over an hour before they let us have a break. I was filthy and smelled like a rotting towel that had been dumped in a fish bucket. The other five girls and I were walking back to the main area of camp heading back to our cabin when I heard a man say my name.
My dad was leaning on his truck with his cap tipped up off his forehead and arms crossed, smiling. In my entire life, I do not ever remember being so grateful to see someone. He was there to take me home. I ran back to my cabin, shoving all the things in my bags, not giving much thought to anything else. When I got back to his truck, there was another adult talking to my dad. The lady told him he couldn’t just drive up and take me home because the week wasn’t over. My dad responded by saying something to the effect of, “Lady, if I want to take my daughter home, I will. Get in the truck LA.” I got in the truck with what I imagine was the biggest grin I’ve ever had. My dad was my salvation that day.
My mom and dad have always been ready to throw down everything for me. If I needed a backup plan, I knew I could use them. Even as an adult, my mom was always ready to be my support system through having kids, a dissolving marriage, years of being a divorced single mom and now as someone to bounce life off of. My dad was always the one to fix everything that broke, co-sign loans and and teach his grand-kids about nature. They are a big part of why I parent the way I do. They were the best examples of loving supportive parents and I’ve always been so thankful they were mine.
Yesterday, I got home from a two day, 10-hour round trip daughter rescue of my own kind. It was long and desolate. Parts of the drive were actually a little scary even for a seasoned road tripper like me. Parts of the drive were insanely beautiful.
Monday night, in the pitch blackness that only happens in the middle of nowhere, I saw my 21 year old daughter’s face light up when I pulled in the campsite. Immediately, my soul said it was all worth it. I would go anywhere for my kids. I would do anything they needed me to do. I won’t rescue them from their homework or rescue them from having to eat a little crow now and then. I won’t rescue them from the ramifications of poor choices or fight their battles with their peers, but I will always do whatever it takes to rescue them from a situation they no longer feel they need to be in.
I’ve always had deep ties to my kids and I always will. Every one of them were a mamma’s boy or girl. If they were going to choose a parent to go to when they had a bump, bruise or hurt, they always wanted to find me. I was their comforter. My job was to love them, with words and actions, harder than they wanted. I needed to make sure they never doubted whether they were loved. Even though they don’t need me to apply band-aids or tie their shoes anymore, the mom job is still mine. I’m fortunate to have a husband, who isn’t their biological dad, who doesn’t ask me to choose against those mom moments. He supports me supporting them and I will always be forever grateful.
I want my kids to know how much and how often I think of them. How much I love being their mom. How much I want them to know that they are my biggest joy.
An open letter to my children.
My beautiful ones,
You’re all so grown. So adult. So unique.
After all four of you became mine, being your mom was my favorite part of life. I know I made mistakes. I know sometimes I was too hard and other times I was too lenient. It’s the great mystery of parenting. “Am I doing the right thing?” “Should I have….?” “What if I had …” I know sometimes one or more of you thought I was giving too much attention to another. I know sometimes you felt like I didn’t listen. I know sometimes you’ve been mad enough at me to spit. I get it. I have a mom, too. It’s normal to have moments of exasperation and irritation at your mom. Just know, I tried the best I could and I’m still learning. I did everything with you four in mind. You were never my second thought. You were my God given gifts and the best ones I’ve ever received.
It’s so hard to watch you grow up. If I could go back and relive every single moment of your lives, I would. I’d love to do it all over again. Being the mom of young adults who are making decisions for their future, who decide where they want to live, where they want to plant a new season of life crushes me. :-) My apron strings are tattered and they freaking bleed almost every day. Don’t get me wrong, I love that somehow I raised you to be independent from me. I love that somehow I taught you to fly. Still, I secretly wish I could just buy all the houses on my street to build a compound where you, your spouses and children would live so we could have huge family dinners once a week.
I can’t tell you exactly how much you own of my heart but I do know that it would be consumed with huge empty holes if you weren’t around.
The finest things I’ve ever done in this life are the four of you.
Finally, let me tell you how much I love you:
I love you so much I trust you to place the people in your inner circles that will speak Truth and Love into the corners of your life. I love you so much I trust you to look to God to find your purpose within what he has planned and knitted together specifically for you. I promise you I will pour all my heart and soul into making sure you have every opportunity you need to make your God given dreams a reality.
I love you so much I will always be waiting around to hold you up. Life will have some hard knocks. Painful horrible terrible moments. Sometimes, we just need someone holding our back straight to keep us from falling. I promise you I will never fail to be your biggest cheerleader and encourager during rough waters.
I love you so much I will never stop praying for you. I have prayed my deepest and most fervent prayers over you since the day you were born. Prayers of protection and prayers of guidance. I’ve prayed every day that God would protect you from relationships that were harmful. I have prayed that your future spouse will be raised in a home that knows healthy amounts of love. I’ve prayed that he/she will have a saving faith in Christ and continually be chasing after Him. I pray for your future family to be centered in His plan.
I love you so much I will rejoice when you rejoice and I will weep when you weep. I’m Team V/A/L/C. I’m always going to be interested in your life. My world will always include your joys and your heartaches.
I love you so much you and your family will always have a home wherever I am. Always.
It feels like just yesterday you were babies I held tightly in my arms, wondering who you would each become. Today, my incredible children, I’m so proud of who you are. I’m proud of how you treat others. I’m proud of where you are going. I’m proud to be your mamma.
Also, if you wouldn’t mind forgiving me for crying every time you fly back to your amazing lives? I’m emotional. I just miss you every day I don’t see you. Just smile and give me a hug, knowing that my feelings toward you couldn’t be any bigger.
Dream your dreams, keep a tight grip on your faith in Him and soar.
Your kids need written words from you, too. Let me encourage you to put your feelings and words on paper. Give them something tangible to hold on to covered with your words in your handwriting.
Bless your kids.
Be their cheerleader.
Rescue them when they need it.
You might be changing their world.