Everything I need to know, I learned from my grandchildren

grandchildrenCousin Camp has come to an end for another summer. Every July I look forward to having all six grandchildren, ages eight to fourteen, together for a cousin reunion. I must have fixed 12 gallons of lemonade, made 35 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, found 12 missing shoes, fixed an overflowing toilet 5 times, took at least 100 pictures to the tune of “Nana, please…n-o  m-o-r-e pictures,” and said “wash your hands,” at least 8 times a day. I do believe my daughter can fix mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets 10 different ways!

It was reminiscent of my childhood as I watched them enjoy the simple fun of playing hide and seek in the dark, learning how to play the old-fashion game of Jacks, watching the boys play roly-poly races with small, round bugs on the sidewalk, and for everyone to run around in the rain as they squealed with glee. You can imagine the laughter when a Nerf ball was accidently (?) thrown, and hit a plate of pancakes filled with sticky syrup, or when hands were washed in the sink where the spaghetti was draining in the colander, and we all ate “soapy spaghetti.”

I set up the now famous “Nana’s Nail Salon” on our deck, and painted nails for my three granddaughters and their friends for a whole morning. My three grandsons, their friends, and all the girls, played board games on our deck, and played soccer, dodge ball, and capture the flag in the park for hours of fun. Kick-ball was a late afternoon ritual, with a growing number of kids participating every day. Even the parents would gather to watch. I made the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie (on a huge pizza pan), along with a “build your own ice-cream sundae” for a dessert-night treat.  Bunk beds and sleeping bags filled the loft and the sound of giggles and conversations continued until “lights out” echoed up the stairs.

I loved every minute. I watched, participated, listened, and learned. I captured the memories with pictures, and have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God teaches 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 it was worth repeating the things God continues to teach me at Cousin Camp each 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 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 eight to fourteen, 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 and 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 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.

May Cousin Camp memories live on…

Susan Miller signature