Provide Like A Parent

By N. Shane LaPointe

Look at this photo. Beautiful, isn’t she? I look in those big blue eyes, and I see hope, happiness, and joy. That is why I named this child Leelou Joy. It’s how I felt about becoming a parent. But looking back, I realize there have been other times before Leelou when I was a parent.

Like many of you, I have been there for someone who needed me. Sometimes, it was something simple—a hug and a pat on the back after a fall, or to celebrate someone’s new accomplishment; sometimes it wasn’t so simple, like the time I sat quietly at a sick friend’s bedside.

Those experiences gave me a clue as to what it would mean to be a parent.

I know you’ve been captivated, looking at those blue eyes in the photograph and thinking, “Wow … beautiful.” And she is. And they all are. But I have to show you the rest of the picture.

Oh, so that’s parenting too. It’s at once beautiful and disgusting. I’m happy to share with you that the object in her nose is a chocolate chip. She earned it for peeing on the potty. A lot of parenting is like that--beautiful, disgusting, funny, and maddening … sometimes all of those at once.

Your job as a camp staff member is much the same.

Face The Fear
I once read that having a child is like getting a tattoo on your face because you have to be fully committed. And with that commitment comes joy, nudity, mess, physical exhaustion, and fear. No one really talks about the fear because it is always there, looming.

The fear begins even before there is a child. Do I have what it takes? Am I ready for this? Am I committing to someone who has a child? Adoption? Conception? Could I conceive? Am I too old? Can I carry a child to term? Oh, and birth. Birth? Are you kidding?

Then a child shows up, and you realize that every decision you make for this little person matters. Deciding what diapers to put on becomes an epic choice. And since you’re sleep-deprived anyway, it just becomes too much.

Is the child hungry? In a clean diaper? When was the last time the baby slept? Does he or she just need to be held? Keep it simple because the finish line keeps moving.

Even when everything is finally quiet, you find yourself standing at the bedroom door trying to hear if the child is breathing. That is the fear.

However, the bad and the good are all so normal. I am surrounded by people who do this parenting thing all of the time, and I cannot believe how they function. So I am going to try to function too, and be appreciative of every moment.

A Mom’s Perspective
What an act of service being a parent is! Think of your parents or the person you relied on most as a child. It may have been a dad, grandparent, or guardian. Somebody stepped up for you, just as you can step up for campers this summer.

There is no greater act of service than to care for a child. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / michaeljung

An excerpt from the poem “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins eloquently expresses the life of a mother:

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones, and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.

Perhaps you are now thinking back to your own childhood and the handcrafted gifts you gave to loved ones to show how much you cared. I have discovered that the more I learn about what it means to be a parent, the more I learn about what it means to be a child.

Protection And Devotion
Can you even imagine the devotion it takes to ensure a child stays safe and warm and happy? That someone did whatever it took to make sure you were safe and warm and happy is remarkable. And that is how someone still feels about you. Perhaps no one has told you that lately.

So here is my hope for you: You don’t have to wait to become a parent to realize the love that has been given to you, and the love, hope, and joy within you. And know that somebody still feels that way about you.

For me, that is the gift of parenting. I realize that while I am doing so much for others, I am also deserving of patience, devotion, and love. Just as each of the children you care for this summer deserves the security of your warmth and leadership, you deserve the same treatment. And that mutual kindness will make you and your campers better parents, should that day come.

N. Shane LaPointe is a professional health educator and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She and her family can be found slope-side in the winter and camp-side in the summer. During the academic year, Shane teaches courses in health education at Phillips Exeter Academy, a coeducational boarding high school in New Hampshire.