At my first stp I remember bringing my 6 month–old to Navnight each week. Strolling her in the back of the room,desperately trying to get her to sleep, a wise older staff woman said, “Linnette, you need to go home and put your baby to bed!” It was a landmark moment in my life–I realized I was still trying to fit in the full-time staff woman mold I had created in my head, rather than prioritizing my new role as a mom.
Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to contribute to the program—but I needed to figure out what aspects of the program made sense with having a little one. Being out every week until 10pm at Navnight wasn’t one of them.
At my next stp we were in a two-bedroom condo with three kids. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea not only to have my 2 year–old transition into a bed and share a room with her sister for the first time, but also to begin potty training her during the first week we arrived. I was sleep-deprived with a newborn, cleaning up accidents multiple times a day, and watching the monitor as my sweet girl bounced on top of her sleeping sister. It’s a funny picture now, but at the time I just cried.
Another summer our family of 6 lived in a house with 8 college boys. That was an experience!
|Snow Mountain Ranch 2008 at the rodeo with students.|
Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way:
1. Ask questions about your living space ahead of time. Someone has either lived there already or checked it out—How stocked is the kitchen? Do the windows have black-out curtains? Are there sufficient linens? Keep notes for moms the next year!
2. While some changes may have to happen for your kids (like sharing a room), try to minimize them as much as you can in the first weeks.
3. Feel out which program events are worth attending. Free lunch may be offered, but if you are having to navigate chaos, constantly shush your kids, strain to connect with anyone, and find yourself exhausted afterwards, it may be wise to stay home and make sandwiches.
4. Take the first weekend and fully unpack, stock the fridge, and tour your surroundings. We had a morning last summer where we explored our new community as a family. We found the grocery store and the closest library. We visited parks and found an amazing one just down the road. We stopped into the rec center and asked about their gymnastics classes for the kids. That morning was an investment in our family for the rest of the summer.
5. Plan on giving lots of grace to your spouse. He is in a big transition too—new staff team, new students, new role, and lots of hours of work at first.
6. Enjoy the simplicity of having less. Instead of bemoaning a smaller living space and the inconvenience of moving your family, focus on the benefits… less space = less mess! You will set the tone for your family. If momma is content, everyone elsewill be too.
7. Look for ways to build routine. Kids thrive when they know what is coming next. Keep the routines that you can from home (i.e. bath before bed).
8. Still date your spouse. You have more babysitters within a one-mile radius than ever!
9. Find at least one way to connect yourself personally with the program. It means a lot to your husband, and it will help the sacrifices you make be joyful ones. One summer I asked Dave to watch our three girls (3 1/2, 2, & 1 month) so I could go out to breakfast for my 121s with 2 team leaders. Looking back, that was probably too much, but I did really enjoy the women and two kid-free mornings! Last summer we had 6, 5, 3 & an 18 month old, and we hosted Dave’s Bible study guys for dinner 5times over the course of the summer. Some of the guys would come early to help.
10. Plan to people-detox your kids when you get home. Our first week home, my kids ask, “Is it just you today? Can’t we have someone over?”
It is a lot of work to pack up your whole family for the summer. It can be hard to say goodbye to friends and miss out on life back home. But I can honestly say the Lord has blessed our family at each program we’ve been a part of. I’ve treasured being around other Nav moms who get my life! I’ve connected deeply with the Lord. And we have some really special memories with our kids. There is nothing quite like having a two year old who’s first words are “Dolly Parton.” Thank you Smoky Mountain Summer and Dollywood!
|Smoky Mountain Summer 2011 at the Chinese Circus|
Linnette and her husband Dave began their marriage and Nav staff career ten years ago (EDGE and SIT at Colorado State) and they currently lead the collegiate Nav ministries in Nashville. They have four children: Kate (7), Kylie (5), McKenzie (3), and Daniel (2). Linnette and Dave are passionate about the shared mission of raising up disciple-makers and raising up their kids.
What about you? Maybe you are heading into your first STP or 15th! What tips above did you find helpful? Or maybe you have others that weren’t listed? Please share in the comments section below!