Loved the Monday Memo this week; sometime back more than 2 decades ago (my kids are 28, 30,32) I went through a phase where I was looking for something.
My rabbit hole began in a men’s group and the men’s group led me to sweat lodges, walking across hot coals, and other native American Indian rituals.
One in particular got me thinking; for a boy to become a man in that culture, the elder would take the boy into the woods and place an arrow tip in the spot under his “adams-apple” in the soft part of the neck. The other end of the arrow was lodged against a tree and the boy was told to “walk” towards the tree. The arrow, breaking in half, signified the moment in time that a boy becomes a man.
I thought about our culture and how no ritual exists. For me personally, now 62, it was on my 16 and ½ year birthday when I got my license to drive. For others it is losing their virginity or perhaps leaving home to go to college. There is no formality.
My idea was to bring each of my boys, on their 13th birthday on a great adventure; one-on-one with me, their dad.
We chose together (I like your method of having the child research and make the choice alone).
My eldest son and I chose to hike Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine, and it was pure peril as the wind was howling and rain came down. But, as we made our way up the side of “Cathedral”, often one rock and hand-over-hand at a time, I saw a change.
We reached the 1st of 4 cathedrals and rested; I had used considerable energy to get him to where we were and, when another father-son (they were 40 and 60 something) approached I asked “does it get any harder” and the son answered that “if you can do one, you can do them all”. I looked at my son and said; “see champ, you did one (thinking that he didn’t do it, I did by dragging him up one rock at a time), you can do them all”.
After the rest, we continued up. He began to hold his own and his confidence began to build, based on the notion he was “doing it”. On the third cathedral he was with me, step by step, and the fourth cathedral he led the way. In a matter of hours, my son did begin the transition to a man.
My middle boy and I decided we should run a ½ marathon and we chose Toronto which had one on his exact 13th birthday. We trained and during our last long training run (my mother lived exactly 10 miles away) the last two miles were uphill and he struggled. On the verge of tears, I pushed him, saying it was okay for us to walk if he needed to. He didn’t want to walk but also wondered how, if he couldn’t complete 10 miles, how would he be able to do 13+ in 2 weeks.
I assured him that on race day, the universe gives you what you need and to “have faith”. We drove from Maine to Boston and flew to Buffalo where I rented a Mustang convertible and we did a ½ marathon (13.1 miles) on his 13th birthday. The finish photo, now turned into a poster, shows my son with a beaming smile, hands clasped together with mine, reaching into the sky as we pass a women coming up to the finishing chute.
Room service steaks and watching Sunday football were in order and then Niagara Falls on the way back to Buffalo the next day. A man was born.
My youngest son and I decided that two Maine “bumpkins” might have some fun in the big city; I had a saying he liked, “go big or go home”, and he chose New York City, “the Big Apple”. We flew in from Portland Maine and I had a limo waiting to bring us to the Helmsley Hotel in Manhattan. We went on a helicopter ride, the Empire State building, the Statute of Liberty, hit golf balls into the Hudson River from the 4th floor of the Chelsea pier, sat in the first row for a matinee performance of the Lion King, went to a disco bowling alley, toured ESPN studio, went to Trump Tower for breakfast and walked our asses off.
Recently, I went to visit that son – now 28 years old, living and working in New York City. I took him out to a restaurant to meet his new girlfriend and he took me to a play on Broadway as we reminisced and relived everything we did that weekend of his 13th birthday.
Thanks for the memories; I am still waiting on grandchildren. Maybe then, perhaps I can have another round of “turning 13”.
Regards; :LIP: Reade