I am wired to find a sense of purpose. I like to have a reason behind the things that I do. I like having the delusion that I’m here for a reason and am making things better.
I want the same for my kids. Not because they’re entitled to it or because I think they’re here to fulfill some grand plan. What I really want for them is to have a why.
If you’re unfamiliar with Simon Sinek TED talk you should take 20 minutes and watch it.
If you’re too lazy (no judgment), then here’s a breakdown.
Most people know what they do. Less people know how they do it. Even less have a reason why they do what they do.
That sense of purpose, drive, ambition and excellence…I want to instill that in my children.
Over the last few years I studied masculinity and the role it plays in society. In that course of study I came across rites of passages that clearly define when a boy becomes a man.
Here’s a great writeup about masculine rites of passage.
On the surface these appear to be tests and social proof of machismo. To a certain degree they are. I can’t put them in a “those ancient cultures didn’t know what they were talking about” category. They’ve existed for too long and I think that’s giving modern society too much credit.
Instead, I think they were ways to give permission and approval.
I have spent most of life looking for approval to do things. The reality is that I don’t need permission to do anything, I’m an adult. But when did that transition happen?
It could be anything or any time. As I reflect back on all the things that I did, none of them stand out as a clear transition of control into my hands.
The problem is that society is made of asking for permission for everything. The reason for this is to provide safety for children. Which I get. But when there isn’t a transition out of that “asking for permission” phase then we get finger pointing, and entitlement.
The safety net becomes a crutch.
Perhaps I’m projecting my own experience. I am still trying to get over my finger pointing and sense of entitlement.
This last weekend my son turned 8. For Mormons this is the age of accountability. I think it’s a good beginning of this transition into manhood, or adulthood (I plan on doing the same thing with my daughter).
I wanted to give him a sense of transition, that things are going to be different, that he has more responsibilities. For the time being it is my job to take care of him, but I won’t always be around. Eventually he’s going to have to take care of himself, and then a family of his own.
I also wanted to attach this concept to something physical. One of the benefits of these ancient rituals is that they have a physical component they aren’t just something that is intellectualized.
For his 8th birthday I made him this:
It’s a monkey fist made out of paracord.
This knot was used by mariners to help dock a ship or bring two ships together in open waters. One end of the rope was attached to the ship and the knotted end could be thrown ashore. The ship could then be pulled in.
I explained to my son that being 8 is a big deal. That he needs to start doing things on his own. He needs to start making his own choices.
Sometimes making those choices is hard because he doesn’t know what the outcome is going to be. This knot represents a safety net. That I would always be there to help bring him ashore. This was our lifeline and connection. He’ll be on his own, until he needs help.
Now it’s up to me to start giving the freedom to make his own choices and deal with the consequences (within reason of course).
To add a little drama to the whole event I woke him up at 5:30 in the morning told him to get dressed as quickly and as quietly as he could and meet me downstairs. I didn’t answer any of his questions.
We drove up the canyon to watch the sun rise and I gave them the knot. Then we went for breakfast.
If you’re interested in the making one this is the best diagram I found:
The event had the impact that I wanted. But events don’t mean anything unless the context has changed and there is appropriate follow up.
That’s where the real work begins. Either way I am excited about the steps we’ve taken.
How do you pass on to your kids a sense of responsibility and accountability?