1 a : being without company : lone
Yesterday, I drove A and B to Kentucky for camp. This is A's third and B's second year at Barefoot. I first heard about Barefoot at the church we used to attend. Each year, they would play a video that showed this fabulous camp with kids of all shapes, sizes and skin colors doing art, sports and learning about God. It made me cry every time. I remember thinking, "I can't wait until my daughters are old enough to go there!"
I blinked and they were suddenly old enough.
Last year, B went with a friend. But that friend is a grade below B, so she was slated to attend a different session this year. I tried to find another friend to join her. I checked with two other families that I thought might enjoy the Barefoot experience, but I couldn't find anyone. So I signed her up hoping that there would end up being a familiar face or that she would quickly make a friend.
When we arrived yesterday, K and I walked her sisters to their cabins. We dropped A's stuff off first and then headed over to B's cabin to help B put the sheets on her bed. B's cabin was mostly full when we arrived - or it seemed so because all of the bunks near the door already had occupants. The counselor was there and remembered K from Barefoot Day Camp, where she coached K in soccer. B was very quiet as we made her bed up. I could almost see her folding in on herself, like a box that folds up when not in use. When we stepped outside, B looked... I have trouble finding the word for it. Was she stunned that she really was there without a friend? Wide-eyed at doing this alone? Or was my nearly fearless child afraid?
"It's going to be OK," I reassured her quietly.
"But I'm the only white one," she whispered.
"I know," I replied. "Maybe some other girls will arrive that look more like you. But E, the girl in the bunk below you, has a very kind face. Maybe you should try talking to her.
B nodded, unconvinced. K and I started to leave and B said, "Can I come with you?"
"No," I said. "We're going to leave now. I think you should go back into your cabin. Try to find someone to talk to."
I am not a parent who lets her children get out of their commitments. But I came oh-so-close to telling B, "Call me if it doesn't get better. I'll come and get you." I did not say it aloud, but my heart said it.
On the drive back to Nashville, I was pondering the whole situation. Should I have sent B a different week? Was there another friend I could have asked after the first two couldn't go? I felt like as my heart was breaking, God whispered to me that sometimes the hardest things in my life have been the things I learned the most from. While this is absolutely true, it was less than comforting to hear this in relation to my child. As much as I want my children to grow into who God has made them to be, I would love for that to involve less pain, less hurt, less wounding than my own path has held. Yet mere hours before dropping B off, I wrote her a note that I hid in her suitcase. It said, in part, "Be who you are this week. But be open to God showing you more of who you are." Was he going to show her through loneliness?
It's not unlikely. The day before taking my girls to camp, I had lunch with the women who were in my spiritual direction group last year. When we stopped meeting officially in May, we agreed to try to meet monthly for a meal to stay connected. Over lunch, we were talking about friendships that shifted and changed. One of the women was talking about a party where some people purposely avoided talking to her. I told her that my counselor once told me that the more emotionally healthy you are, the more likely you are to be lonely.
"Why is that?" she asked.
When she asked this, I realized that I'd never asked why. I think I didn't ask why because as soon as I heard it, it rang true in my heart even if I didn't know exactly why. So I did the best I could and told my friend that what I've experienced is that the more closely I listen to what God is telling me, the more I veer from the prescribed, common path. This makes me lonely because there are people who don't want to journey with me when I am not going where they want to go. This loneliness I feel makes me lean in closer to God and listen more closely, which creates this cycle of being closer and closer to God, but perhaps without company on parts of my journey.
B is more self-aware than most ten year old girls. She knows who she is and who she isn't. I suspect that some of this emotional health she has does make her lonely at times. I don't know the right way to parent her through this. Thus far, I've tried to affirm who she is, give her tips on building friendships when she asks and, above all, love her. This last one is easy because I think she's an amazing girl - one of God's best creations (alongside her sisters, of course).
And while she may be lonely at times on her journey, I am praying for God to send her people who see how lovely, strong and amazing she is.