Knee Deep in Lemonade and Life Lessons

Cousin CampCamp NanaPapa, better known as Cousin Camp, has come to an end for another summer. Every July, I look forward  to having all six grandchildren, ages seven to thirteen, together for a cousin reunion. They make crafts and bake cookies, play board games and kickball, swim and bike ride, take long walks and watch movies. They laugh and cry, scuff knees and feelings, stay up late, and sleep in, drink gallons of lemonade, and eat countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I love every minute. I watch, participate, listen, and learn. I have captured the memories with pictures, and have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God continues to teach me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren, and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget in the busyness of my daily life. I thought I would share a few things God taught me at Cousin Camp this summer.

It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.

Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had.  God had to work with me on this one!

Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is so unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.

Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies, and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.

Crafts are good for all ages. I was surprised to learn that everyone from seven to thirteen, both boys and girls, loved doing crafts! It was fun, messy, and an opportunity for them to express their individual creativity. A lot of things happened. They shared ideas and supplies, learned from each other, and complimented each other on what they did.                                                                        

Deck talk is magic. After dinner, we would sit on the deck, with only a few lanterns to give us a glow in the dark. It was amazing how the conversation flowed, when there were no distractions. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes.

A little space is a good thing. Every child needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together, or in a group.

It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them, and others. Pointing out the error of their ways, in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to resort to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye level, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.

Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself—“Is this a hill high enough to die for?  Am I making a mountain out a mole hill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?”

A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up, laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.

Manners matter.  Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, elbows off the table—have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp.  My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to “Nana’s Manners School”—it lasts for two hours!”  I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.                                                                                                                           

Hold hands and stick together.  Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself—your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands, and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.

I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget. Humble me all the more…

Susan Miller