Something that I have been thinking about for a little while now (and was really encouraged to hear that a friend of mine has done something like this before) is a type of “rite of passage” or “man training” or whatever you want to call it for my sons. I have 3 boys – a 5 year old, and twins that are 2. My oldest will be turning 6 at the end of April, and I would like to start with him. Here are my thoughts:
Every year, starting when they are 6, I will take them out camping, one-on-one. Beyond just being able to have quality time just the two of us, I want to include age-appropriate things for them to learn, things for them to become more accountable for, perhaps different types of gifts to look forward to getting, etc. One thing that would be cool to do would be to train them every year in a different skill in camping (probably starting that at a later age) like setting up a tent, starting a fire, cooking food, etc., with the ultimate goal at a certain age for them to be able to go out for a night/weekend and camp on their own.
This day and age in our American culture, what does it even mean to be a man? What does it mean to have honor, dignity, respect, integrity? Who is teaching these things to our children? Why as parents are we not the ones teaching our kids about good work ethic, sex, treating women with respect and kindness, knowing how to deal with bullies, knowing how to communicate and express emotion properly, etc. Instead, our kids learn perverted views on those things from massive amounts of TV, radio, and other kids at school or in the neighborhood.
So beyond trying to be a better father in general, I love the thought of taking them out for a special time with their Dad, with a specific purpose of teaching them to become a man, and what being a man means. Whatever I do each year with my oldest (which I will be documenting so I know exactly what we did, and what I taught them), I will plan to do with each of the twins when they turn the same age. That way, when the twins are 5 and getting ready to turn 6, my oldest can think back and remember his first time out, and what he did with me when he was 6, and tell them about it so they can look forward to being able to do it too.
So, starting in a couple months with my oldest, I need to figure out what I’m going to do. The idea I have now is to try and pull together a number of stories that have good teachings within them. For instance, he has been telling us he can’t go to school, or that he doesn’t feel well, to try to get out of stuff when he actually feels fine. There’s the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” that relates to this situation. I’m hoping maybe I can find a handful of those stories to help teach him some of those things. We will definitely go camping together. I may also give him his first pocket knife (great idea from my friend Kory) and teach him how to take the bark off of sticks, how to make a cool looking walking stick, or how to make a spear – as well as how to use a knife safely of course.
Do any of you Dads out there do anything like this with your children, or have you done it in the past? I would love to hear ideas and things that you’ve tried that have worked well (and things that did not work well) if you would be willing to share. Or, if you just have any ideas you want to share even if you haven’t done anything like this, I’d love for you to share.