If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. – James 1:5 (NRSV)
There are a lot of hard decisions you make as a parent: choosing the first pediatrician, deciding babysitters and daycare, deciding where to send them to school, letting them wear pajamas and a batman cape to the grocery store. As they get older the decisions can be more difficult: how much help do you provide with schoolwork, when do you step in (or not) with friend or bully problems, when are they able to go someplace on their own, deciding whether they can stay over night in mixed company.
In the story of life, these are pretty easy things. We haven’t had to make really difficult decisions like which oncologist we should use, whether we need to pull a child out of his school because they can’t succeed (or even survive) because of negative influences, deciding between whether to feed them or take them to the doctor. We’ve been fortunate.
However, we are faced with a hard decision right now.
Last year, Eldest went on a mission trip (Caravan) with church. He had been looking forward to this trip for while, even writing about it in a paper in middle school. There’s not much about this trip to excite a teenage boy: riding for hours in a van to South Dakota, being required to wear jeans even when the weather is sweltering, no electronics for a week, unrelenting bugs and precious few showers. But yet, his first words when we picked him up in July were, “I’m going back next year.”
After some sleep (and a shower), he shared his experiences. He told us about the boy he connected with (Marcus). Eldest taught Youngest the new card game he learned. And life went on.
Each summer, our family spends a week up north. It’s relaxing and a favorite week of our year. This is especially true for my husband, who enjoys not just the time we are spending together but also is able to “relive” the treasured memories of trips his family took up north when he was a boy.
We need to book the cabin by December or January. We’ve had bad luck finding one that works with our extended family, so we’ve been able to adjust our week. One of the reasons we booked the cabin we are staying in this year is because it was available this particular week – the week after Caravan. This family vacation has been on the calendar since Thanksgiving. Last week, we found out that Caravan had moved by one week – to the week of our family vacation.
And this has led to our hard decision.
Eldest is willing to forgo one of his favorite weeks of the year in order to go on Caravan. This says a lot about the importance of this trip to him. But it’s not really his decision. His absence would change the dynamic of our week up north. Is it still a family vacation if the whole family isn’t there? Eldest is finishing his sophomore year – how many chances to do we have left to be together this way as a family? Do we choose mercy and justice over deepening our family bond?
This decision isn’t hard because of dire consequences if the “wrong” choice is made. This decision is hard because it cuts to the heart of our family – and there is loss and joy regardless of what is decided. Loss for Eldest and the relationships he wants to renew at Wings as Eagles ministry – and the joy of family time. Loss for our family if Eldest is missing from our week together – and joy for Eldest to participate in Caravan.
We are still in conversation about this, and I don’t know where we will end up. Both choices support our values and the hopes we have for our boys as they become men. It reminds us that there are many other difficult decisions in our future as we struggle with which decisions are ours and which belong to our children – and that we want them to be able to make the “right” decision when all of the decisions belong to them.
Hard decisions aren’t always about whether you make a bad decision. They are hard because you want to make the best decision. And in this situation, working through the loss and joy that will come regardless of what decision is made.