The best gift… Ever.

So, moving on…

On Sunday, instead of going to church like the good missionaries do, we went to the beach. Actually, we really like our little church here, so it’s not like we were dying to skip it, but last week sucked so bad, on so many levels, that we just had to get outta here. We needed to regroup as a family, remind ourselves that, ya know, we kinda like each other… We really needed to show our poor kids that adults can be pretty awful to each other sometimes, but they can also forgive each other, and apologize to each other, and be friends again…oh, yeah, and then they can stay married. So, that was important.

So we packed our bread and our $12 jar of peanut butter and we hopped onto the brand new, totally smooth, toll-road that goes from here to the closest beach, and in just under $4, and just over one hour, we were covered in sand and salt and vitamin D. And it was good. It was very good.

AND, it was the day before my incredible, oldest son’s 16th birthday.

I’m pretty sure turning 16 in a foreign country is weird. Like, it’s just not a big deal here. First, you can’t drive until you’re 18. And then, Latin culture is big on birthday number 15, so 16 isn’t really a thing. And also, if we lived in the states he’d be getting his license now, and for his birthday, we would most likely be giving him a crappy (not sure if I can say that, but I think, yes) car. Like a $1000 turd-mobile off of Craigslist, but still, a car.

So, as parents, what do you do for your child as they celebrate a “this is very big deal in another country” milestone birthday?

That’s right. You give them a surfboard.

I’m telling you this because the next day, when 6’ 3” of 16 year old came lumbering down the stairs, he sidled up to me, put his arm over my shoulder, rested his prickly man-chin on top of my head, and then – I am not making this up – my sometimes ungrateful, jerk of a child said, “Mom, you do realize that that board is, like, the BEST birthday present…ever. Thank you so much, I love it.” He said that. Out loud.

So basically, I want you to know that giving your kid a surfboard, pretty much makes you a rad parent. And, I’m pretty sure it makes up for the previous 15 years of ridiculously bad child rearing. So there you have it.

Parenting 101: Screw up your kids? No problem. Buy their affection. It fixes everything.

Ooh, and now I have this ammo that I can use again and again for the rest of his life.

“What’s that son – you want me to pay for college?….Um, are we forgetting that you got a surfboard for your 16th birthday?! Sheesh…you just take and take….”

– or –

“I’m sorry. Did you just ask me ‘What’s for dinner?’…Wow. It’s almost like someone around here doesn’t have a longboard in their bedroom.”

– or –

“I’m not really sure what you meant by ‘I’m the only 16 year old on the face of the planet without a cell phone.’, but, I’m pretty sure you got the ‘BEST birthday gift EVER’ so I think you’ll be okay.”…. “Oh, and there’s got to be, like, at least 9, other 16 year olds that don’t have phones, so quit being so melodramatic.”

I know, right? I make it look so easy…

Ok. So, what I’m getting at, is that I now have a freaking 16 year old. And I’m supposed to be the one in charge. And I need prayer for that. I need lots and lots and lots of prayer for that. I’m, like,…scared.

This is my plea for your prayers.

Prayers for God’s grace and peace. Prayers for guidance and help and gentle instruction from those that have done this and done it well. Prayers that God, who has redeemed the world through His son, will redeem my weak and oh-so-flawed efforts to raise my son, this tall, furry, man that lives under my authority, to be a man after God’s own heart.

Oh, and pray that he doesn’t get dragged out to sea, or eaten by a shark, or skin cancer. All of those would be really bad endings to the “We got our kid a surfboard.” story. But, do pray that when he’s out there, on the water, that he would be swept up in God’s creation, that he would be moved by it, and that he would fall even more in love with God because of it.

That would, indeed, make us rad parents that gave our kid the best gift…ever.



  1. Carrie on February 9, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Happy Birthday, Jamie's son!

    Cool Mom is a great title to have!

  2. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on February 9, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Yeah, Cool Mom is a great title. Except for when it's followed by words like "inept", "inconsistent", "crazy"… you know, that kind of thing.

    Sometimes I think it's far better to be a boring, regular, uncool Mom, that really knows how to pave the way for a childs future.

    The jury is still out for me, cause I haven't finished messing with my kids heads yet…

  3. Carrie on February 9, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Meh, boring is…well…boring. Being real, exemplifying the grace of God is a pretty great parent in my book.

    Me? I'm Naggy Mom. But I'm working on it. LOL! I have a bunch of kids and am snowed in in our remote village, so there's not much else to do. 🙂

  4. Zac on February 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    My son, Luke, is not even 4, so I am still super cool in his eyes. Stephen seems pretty down to earth and that to me is proof that his parents are cool. Who knows what will happen in 12 years time, but I hope Luke would call whatever we get him for his 16th Birthday the best gift ever.

    I will be praying.

  5. Cathi Duggan on February 9, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I prayed for you and Mr. 16 yo….and thanks for letting the tears flow–fortunately, our 16 yo spent her 1st weekend in Costa Rica, missed getting her license until she turned 18, and she's happily in college and about to get the "not so nice but it is a car" car this summer–

    and she's adjusted, and she loves us…and one day she'll so appreciate the few years of cultural adjustment she had here in CR( and she tested out of a few levels of Spanish)!


  6. deemus on February 9, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Jamie, just remember, a boy always loves his momma. (in my best southern drawl) I am almost 50, but i still love my momma. I lost her this year, but I remember all the good times, and all the cool stuff she bought me. You don't ever have to worry about that.

    You think you are a bad mom, my mom used to buy me chewing tobacco by the box. Levi Garrett 10 pack, every week on Friday. And she used to tell me, "you better keep that thing in your pants boy!" as I left the house for a date. it worked. I did. Most of the time. I could hear her voice in my mind.

    Sounds like you are doing a fine job Jamie. I have 7 kids. And i am better (and worse) now than with the first one. When they are little I loved them did my best to their entertainment. As they got older I got stricter. But as they reached the teen years, I reminded them of their prior learning, loved them unconditionally, and held their feet to the fire.

    Now my 20-somethings are college graduates, hardworkers, and are appreciative of my being tough on them. But as tough as I was on them, they mostly remember how I tried to make memories with fun times.

    My prayer for you and El Chupa (love that name, LOL) is that God would keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, with the peace that passes all understanding.

  7. The McClain's on February 10, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    that is a pretty cool present! We actually are looking into buying our kids surf boards for their birthdays…at least Ethan- and this year is a big year for me- double digits- he'll be 10!!! thanks for sharing and love the pic. which beach do you guys go to?

  8. Matthew on February 11, 2010 at 9:33 am

    a surf board? i got gift certificates to bookstores when i turned 16 (10 years ago). your a mom who gives really rad gifts. props to you. props. lot's of 'em.

  9. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on February 15, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Brooke, we usually just hit playa Jaco, since it's the absolute closest to us and the surfing is good/easy. We'd like to get up to guanacaste soon.

    Thanks Matthew – We try, haha! We thought of getting him a Kindle, since he's an avid reader, but the surfboard won out. 🙂

Leave a Comment