Many cultures will not allow a boy to progress to the status of manhood without first completing a ritual to demonstrate their prowess. For the Spartans it was the Krypteia where they had to use the training they had received during the Agoge. For the Native American Mandan Tribe there was the Okipa.
Now, I’m fairly certain that putting our son’s through either of these would capture the attention of child services and law enforcement agencies, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t as fathers be seeking out Rites of Passage for our sons. Something to mark their coming into manhood as it is an important time for any young man.
America is the biggest melting pot on earth. We have so many different cultures here that we as a country don’t technically have a culture of our own. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does leave us wanting in terms of rites and rituals that signify a boy’s coming of age. For the past three decades that I have been alive, I have never encountered anything that could even be considered as such. Youth today transition into adulthood fairly seamlessly. There are no ingrained traditions to pass on, no point of transition. The importance of marking a boy’s passage into manhood should be celebrated and taken seriously. After all, there lies a responsibility in being a man, an obligation. An obligation to draw a line in the sand and plant our flag. What that flag stands for is going to depend on the virtues that we have had instilled. It is a wonder that if we went back to the tradition of having rites of passage for our young men, that society wouldn’t be better for it. There should be an established code among men for them to adhere to. There are unspoken codes sure, but not everyone learns them.
The closest thing I had to a rite of passage was getting my drivers license when I turned 16. I figured at that point I was a man and it was official. But what if we as father’s created our own Rites of Passage for our sons? What if we actually took an active role in ushering our boys into manhood? I started thinking of this when my son was just a few weeks shy of 16. It’s an important age for boys and I wasn’t sure how to convey that to him.I ending up giving him a gift I felt was symbolic of a man. I had a personalized ax made for him and gave it to him on his birthday. I told him that the ax was much more than just an ax. The ax was a symbol of man. With it, he could provide the wood to heat his camp, defend it against the wolves, and use it as a marker of his leadership. Being of Irish and Norman descent, I felt it appropriate as those two cultures gifted their boys an ax to signify their progression into manhood among their tribe. We talked about the significance of the ax and the virtues a man should have. All in all, I think it worked out well but am hoping to develop something much more personal and meaningful. A tradition that they can pass on to their sons.
Now, giving your kid an ax may not go over too well with your wives. I get it and that’s fine. But you should do something. Today, young men are going out in the world clueless as to what it means to be a man and the responsibility that comes with it. It’s easily seen when you look at those young men who abandon their kids before they’re born.We aren’t doing enough to prepare our boys for manhood. We are afraid of talking to them like the men they are going to be. Having the hard talks about life, sex, parenthood and probably the hardest of all, OUR mistakes. They shouldn’t have to learn the lessons that we did the hard way.What better way of doing that than creating a rite of passage? Something where we take them one on one and spend real time together. A camping trip, a road trip, fishing, hunting, a hike, ANYTHING where it’s just the two of you. You can give him a watch, a pocket knife, a tie, something to signify and mark his coming of age. Then you can use that give as the ice breaker to have a real in depth conversation with him about the things that he most definitely has questions about. The thing that he should learn from his father that you don’t want him learning the hard way from his own experience, but rather the consequences and implications of those actions from your own. They are longing for these conversations but are too afraid to engage us. We have to be the ones to engage them.
No matter what you choose, be sure that it is something that holds a deep meaning for the both of you. Our boy’s are the men of the future. It’s up to us to show them and teach them what it is to be a man not with just our words, but our actions as well. If we aren’t living up to our roles as men, then we need to change that. We cannot expect our sons to be better men then we are if we don’t give them an example to emulate. The sitcom dad. the fat oaf who is merely the comedic relief for the family isn’t the example they need. They need strong, smart fathers who place value in creating more than they consume and giving more than they take. They are watching our every move. We need to do our utmost to ensure that the moves we make are the right ones. That will ensure that the legacy we leave behind is one worth following.
Until next time,