Saturday, July 25, 2009

Coming of Age

Our son Peter turned 14 last October. In our little corner of UU Understanding, this is the age when we do our "confirmation", our "bar mitzvah", our ritualized initiation into manhood. Our Coming of Age.

This year at church, there were only two 8th graders, and the other one wasn't much into going to church or church activities. Some of the kids of Middle School age did OWL (Our Whole Lives Sexuality Curriculum) at the local big huge church who warmly welcomes us in, but when it came time to think about COA, well, we just weren't up for it. He'd have been the only kid from outside that church, it was on Sunday mornings. There was just too much in the way. So we decided we'd do a family Coming of Age, including a wilderness adventure trip.

But I didn't think the day would actually come and I'd have to actually send my son away on a wilderness adventure!

What was I thinking?

We looked at camps here in the Pacific Northwest, we looked at Stan Crowe's Rite of Passage Journeys. And we looked at YMCA Camp Menogyn, in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of far northern Minnesota. Menogyn is the camp that I went through as a teen, the last trip 45 days of canoeing to Hudson Bay, a float plane to fly us out at the end.

Yep, there was really no contest. Although I would have liked him to take the Rite of Passage trip, he was one year to young. In the end, Menogyn was clearly the best choice. They have canoe trips that go out for a good length of time, even for middle schoolers. It was late into the summer when I called to register, but they fit him into a 14 day trip that includes an extra day in camp making a canoe paddle. Yes, making a canoe paddle. A paddle, making it. And canoeing. And portaging. That's carrying the canoe on your shoulders over land between the lakes and around the rapid and falls.

The plan was for my husband to swing by Minneapolis on his way to Atlanta tomorrow and bring Peter to my parent's house, and they would bring him to the camp bus in the morning. But we fly this crazy non-rev thing, you go when seats are available. The flights in the morning started filling up, and the redeye flight had more than a dozen seats open.

At about 7pm tonight, they decided to go tonight, to leave on the redeye. To go at midnight. My baby, leaving. Not only leaving for camp for two weeks, but leaving his childhood.

Excuse me while I sob for a while.

When Michael, our 17-year-old did his Coming of Age program at the wonderful big church in town, we had some specific structure to help us through. There were mentors, and there was an adult in charge of making sure all went well. There was history and tradition and rituals.

This was just us. Luckily, I'm really into the rituals. So I had some idea of what to do.

A few weeks ago, we sent out letters to some of the good men in Peter's life asking them to share some wisdom about becoming a man, and chosing a life.

We got such amazing letters from so many good men. God, we're lucky to have this community of men for our sons.

We bought him a great journal, a suede cover that wraps around with a strap, I got him "Canoeing with the Cree", by Eric Sevaride which follows almost the same route I took at 17. We stood in a circle outside, with a circle of candles in front of us. We all wished him well on his trip, we gave him his gift, we gave him the letters with an explanation of what they were. And then we asked him to hold a length of ribbon, my husband and I held the other end, the ribbon symbolized his childhood. We handed scissors to our seventeen year old, and he cut the ribbon. When he comes back from his trip, we'll tie the ends together as a symbol of our new relationship, of his youth, his new stage of life.

I thanked him for being my child, and his great childhood years. And then he was off.

Now I just have to find some way to survive these next two weeks, and some way to never, ever let my youngest grow-up! Ever!


ms. kitty said...

Oh, Kari, oh Kari, oh's so beautiful and it's soooooo hard. I'm glad you wrote about this. I think too many people have no idea how important it is for kids to have a sense of transitioning from childhood to adulthood.

Laura said...

Love this post. Thank you.