You know those moments in life where you find yourself thinking, “How in the world did I get here?” Well, I had one over the weekend. Picture this. It’s 7:30 in the morning, and I’m kneeling under a tree, next to a very grumpy, tired and hungry Heidi, digging mandarines out of the snow to see if they had frozen overnight. Yep.
It all began a few months ago when we signed Heidi up for some outdoor activities with her Kindergarten. Things like ‘River Play’ and ‘Beach Trip’ were included, as was ‘Snow Adventure’. So when we got another form from the Kindergarten about some kind of snow activity let’s just say that I thought we had already signed up for it, so I sent the form back saying “Yes, we will attend, and here is our money.” Only thing was, it was a different thing. It wasn’t the day trip to the snow for the kids. It was the overnight kindergarten snow camp – with parents as well.
I really tried to think of reasons not to go, but having already paid, committed and most of all – mentioned it to Heidi – I couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse not to go. Except, that is, for the very mature and responsible, “I don’t wanna go!”
It’s not that I don’t like snow, or camps, or kindergarten kids or parents. I like all of those things. But the thought of going on this camp, with literally bus-loads of people I didn’t know, all speaking Japanese, not knowing the ins-and-outs of shoes, sleeping arrangements, bath time, what the heck would the Parents Party (大人お楽しみ会) be like, food, and just everything – it felt like a bit too much. And yet, it was, as they say, set in stone.
It’s the constant state of uncertainty in a culture that is not your own.
- It’s not knowing that everyone buys small, packaged snacks because everyone gives snacks to each other, and doesn’t just eat them themselves.
- It’s being the only one wearing slippers instead of actual indoor shoes (上靴).
- It’s the shock that parents would leave all the kids sleeping in the rooms by
themselves while they had their party, (大人お楽しみ会) including alcohol, on the kindergarten camp.
- It’s desperately copying the 4-year-olds during the morning assembly stretching and exercises because you have no idea and they already know it better than you do.
- It’s trying to convince your five-year-old to put her snowsuit on and go outside before breakfast with her friends to find the mandarines that you buried last night at the insistence of the other parents, despite the fact that she is tired, cold and hungry.
It’s hard, exhausting and discouraging to be the only one who has no idea – ALL the time.
And yet I’m so glad I went.
Yes, I had no idea what was going on. But it didn’t matter. We had a great time.
I got to know a couple of the Mum’s well, and they were so kind, welcoming, thoughtful and helpful to me. Sometimes it’s our own vulnerability that gives others an opportunity to care for us. People were kind with their Japanese, encouraged me with mine, explained details that I had missed (which happens a lot!), included me in the activities and told me what was going on when I didn’t know. These things, which of themselves are small, made such a difference to me. Instead of feeling unsure and confused, wondering whether I was doing the right thing or not the whole time, I could relax and trust that there were a couple of people there who had my back. And at the end of the day, I made some new friends and enjoyed myself too.
And besides, this camp was all about attempting to create precious mother-daughter time and that is what Heidi and I did. We got to travel together on the bus, we slept snuggled up next to each other, we played with paint in the snow, went on a hike in the snow and slid down a mountain on our bottoms and we swung on ropes together. It wasn’t Pinterest-perfect. There were moments of grumpiness, tiredness and everything else in between.
But that’s parenting and that’s life. Pushing through the challenges while hoping to catch a glimmer of reward on the other side is just another day of being a parent who is trying their best. And it is worth it.
So next time I’m faced with the option of doing something hard, uncomfortable and a little scary, I’m going to try and remember the Kindergarten Snow Camp and how it turned out pretty well.
Even if I had to dig mandarines out of the snow on my knees at 7:30 in the morning.
That’s what being a missionary looks like sometimes.
It’s what being a parent looks like sometimes too.
And that’s more than OK with me.
Have you ever had any “What am I doing here?” moments? What were they? And how did you manage? I would love to hear some of your stories so it would be great if you could share them in the comments below.