So is this male thing I’ve been writing about a lost cause? Of course not. Are boys destined to be slackers, lethargic and lazy? I don’t believe so. But we must cultivate them. We must help our boys become men. And not just men — but leaders. To accomplish this, we must become intentional mentors. When my kids turned thirteen, I wanted to provide a “rite of passage” into adulthood for each of them. Bethany and Jonathan both walked through a significant “doorway” a year before they entered high school. During Jonathan’s thirteenth year, I decided to make this rite of passage a community experience. I met with five other dads who all had sons about the same age — all of them in middle school. We determined we could provide a much more memorable experience if we worked together. So, we took a year and met with our sons twice a month, focusing on building them into “champions.” (The word is an acronym, with each letter standing for a virtue we wanted to build into their life.) We tried to provide what all good training provides: explanations, examples, experiences, and evaluation.
For instance, when we talked about life planning, we took them to a local airport and met with Dan Cathy, the President of Chick-fil-A restaurants. He is also a pilot, who took the boys up in a jet and gave them an amazing experience in the air. He turned that plane sharply right and left, he did the zero-gravity thing and explained how a jet operates, from take-off to landing. Later, we met in a room at the airport and talked about how a flight plan is much like a life plan. No pilot takes off without a flight plan. No person should enter their adult years without a plan either.
All through the year, we introduced these young students to great men. They met famous men in the world of sports, such as Tony Dungy and Kyle Petty. They met a Marine Colonel. They met musicians. They met pro-athletes. They met business owners, pastors, mountain climbers, and school teachers. Each exposed the boys to a new experience and an unforgettable lesson.
At the end of the year, we held two significant meetings. One was just for us, dads and sons — where we presented them with a new name and action figure, drawn by a professional artist. Then, we presented them with a sword and held a knighting ceremony. It was a night they will never forget. You should have seen those boys with their swords.
The final meeting was for friends and family. We invited between 200-300 people to come and witness the boys’ rite of passage ceremony. We showed a video of highlights from the year together, and we gave them a baton, symbolic of the fact that we dads are passing the “baton” of manhood to them. We read them each a personal letter, expressing how much we believed in them and their future. We gave them each a plaque to hang on their wall — and we surprised them with a personal letter from the President of the United States, which encouraged them to be leaders for America in the future. Needless to say, my son won’t soon forget that year.
Tomorrow I will share the experience that paved the way for this amazing year for Jonathan.