The Process of Initiation – from Boyhood to Manhood

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”  St Paul

In many tribal cultures, it is said that if boys were not initiated into manhood, if they were not shaped by the skills and love of elders, then they would destroy the culture. If the fires that innately burn inside youths are not intentionally and lovingly added to the hearth of community, they will burn down the structures of culture, just to feel the warmth.  Michael Meade  (Author)

Why are really alive and mature men so rare today? Steve Biddulph (Australian Psychologist and author) in his most recent book, “The New Manhood”, provides the answer. Because the majority of boys and young men today are not guided through “a carefully managed process” of initiation… something that all cultures offered in some form, prior to the commencement of the Industrial Revolution 300 years ago.

In Australia, the prison population is made up predominantly of men. As at 30 June 2005, 93.2% of prisoners in Australia were men. It is men who commit the overwhelming majority of sex crimes, serious motoring offences, burglaries, robberies, and violent assaults etc. Why might that be? I believe that Michael Meade has already provided the answer… because boys in our culture are not “initiated into manhood”.

So what then should a process of masculine initiation include?

  1. Dad, or a significant male other (Uncle, Grandfather, mentor, coach, teacher etc.)
  2. A Community of Men
  3. Training & Instruction
  4. Testing and challenging in the outdoors… adventure
  5. An Initiation Ceremony

Simply click on any of the above-mentioned essential ingredients, to explore further.

Our 5 Night Father-Son Adventures and our 4 Night Father-Son Adventures have been designed, and are delivered, to provide Dads with each of those essential ingredients to ensure that their sons are initiated into authentic manhood. Register for one of our upcoming 5 Night Father-Son Adventures or for our next 4 Night Father-Son Adventure.

You can see some photographs and read testimonials from the fathers and the sons, from one of our previous 5 Night Father-Son Adventures here.

You can watch a short video in the form of a movie trailer, of what you can expect from one of our 5 Night Father-Son Adventures here.

I’m eager to read stories from those Dads who have initiated their sons into manhood – What did that process mean to you? What did the process mean to your son?

Inside one of our 5 Night Father-Son Adventures

One week ago today marked the close of yet another successful, and more importantly, significant 5 Night Father-Son Adventure. Because we do so many more Adventure Weekends (for boys & girls aged between 7 & 13 years), and because those experiences are always so much more powerful than one ever expects, I myself can tend to forget just how incredibly life-changing and life-giving our 5 Night Father-Son Adventures actually are.

We had a full contingent of twelve (12) Father-Son pairs join us for their adventure of a lifetime, and once again, they came from all over Australia, and the world. Two (2) father-son pairs flew Down Under from Washington State in the U.S.A. (Seattle and Spokane), five (5) father-son pairs flew North from Victoria (2 pairs from Melbourne, one pair from Ballarat, & 2 more pairs from Wodonga), two (2) pairs flew North from New South Wales (one pair from Sydney, and the other pair from Wollongong), and finally three (3) pairs joined us from Queensland (2 pairs flew North from Brisbane, and just one pair were Townsville locals).

In total, five (5) of those twelve (12) fathers had experienced one of our adventures prior to this one.
Two (2) of the Dads had brought their eldest sons to a previous 5 Night Father-Son Adventure, and three (3) of them had brought their youngest sons to a previous Father-Son Adventure Weekend. So that was a real compliment in itself… it’s not just us as ‘Fathering Adventures’ who believe that we’re doing something incredible… helping to strengthen lives, relationships, and families… the very fabric of our society.

Our 5 Night Father-Son Adventures have been designed to fulfill a 2-fold purpose:

  1. To deepen and strengthen the relationship and bond between a Dad and his son, which is foundational for everything else, and
  2. To provide an environment where a father can successfully guide his son out of boyhood (no matter how old the son may be), and into young manhood, or authentic manhood… a rite-of-passage experience if you will.


So what are some of the things that we do
to achieve a richer relationship between a father and son?
Firstly we ensure that
these experiences are
FUN, enjoyable and exciting, set in the midst of great beauty… reefs, rainforests, mountains, rivers, islands, and beaches. I mean let’s be completely honest Dads. How much fun are we to be around for the most-part? When was the last time you had fun with your son? When was the last time you had fun yourself? Secondly, you intentionally have TIME together… sharing experiences together… just the two of you. No distractions, and no greater priority… at least whilst you’re with us. And finally, there are intimate moments shared together… times where each Dad really affirms his son (after being coached first of course), and then an intentional discussion over lunch on the day of the hike.

And what do we do to assist the Dads in guiding their sons out of boyhood, and into young manhood, or authentic manhood, depending on their age? Firstly, we provide a community of men… made up of every father and son present. Secondly, most of what we do is done in the outdoors. As much fun as each of our outdoor adventures are, the majority of them also provide a degree of testing and challenging… necessary for a boy to have his core question “Do I have what it takes?”, answered well, and done so once again, within a community of men. Thirdly, we provide training & instruction… multimedia presentations each evening that speak into the relationship and roles of fathers & sons, and the difference between conventional manhood (still a form of boyhood really) and authentic manhood etc. And finally, the week culminates in a form of ceremony… where each Dad is given the opportunity (once again after receiving some coaching beforehand) to officially call his son up and into either young manhood or authentic manhood (depending on the age of the son of course)… thereby initiating him… providing a moment in time that his son can point to, as being the moment he left boyhood behind.


Anyhow, enough about what we do and why we do it…
let’s now hear from a number of the fathers and sons, and what they had to say about their recent 5 Night Father-Son Adventure experience… followed by some links to more photographs.

Feedback from the Sons

This experience has meant a lot to me. It has been a wonderful time with my Dad. My favourite memories were talking to my Dad on the hike, and the initiation ceremony.”  (Mitchell – Age 16 – Melbourne, VIC)

This experience has meant a lot more to me than I thought it would. I got to know my Dad more. I learnt a lot about myself, the good qualities I already have, and the qualities I need to improve on to become a better man. I loved scuba diving on the reef, and I loved meeting new people who I’ll never forget. I learnt many, many, many things this week, but if I were to summarize, I now know what a real man is, and I now know how to overcome youth and its challenges .”  (Shaun – Age 15 – Townsville, QLD)

This week was an opportunity to connect more with my father, thus resulting in a greater love and understanding of one another . White-Water Rafting was my favourite adventure activity, especially the way that our crew had to work together as a team.”  (William – Age 15 – Ballarat, VIC)

This experience has meant a tonne to me. I found out things about myself I never knew, and I found a strong foundation for my relationship with my Dad. I have grown as much as a young man could grow in just 5 nights / 6 days. The best part about this week for me was all of the time I had with my Dad, the time with friends, and the white-water rafting.”  (Ben – Age 14 – Melbourne, VIC)

This week had a lot of activities which I greatly enjoyed, and it was a chance to hang with my Dad for a while. I loved scuba diving and white-water rafting.”  (Nate – Age 14 – Seattle, WA, U.S.A.)

This week has meant so much. I have formed a stronger relationship with my father. My favourite part of this week was spending time with my father. To bond with him and to hear him say that he is proud of me meant so much. I have also become more confident in myself. I have also come closer to God due to Ben from Melbourne, one of the sons on this camp. He helped me to realise that I don’t need material possessions to be “happy”. I need God. He is proud of his faith and talked to me about how he does not care what he looks like, or what others think of him. He inspired me to form a stronger relationship with God. I learnt this week that I need to believe in myself, and venture outside my comfort zone. Thank you for an amazing week.”  (Jake – Age 13 – Wodonga, VIC)

Feedback from the Dads

This experience has actually revealed to me just how much I really love my son. Without question, my favourite memory was when I affirmed my son in front of all of the other fathers.”  (Mark V. – Age 55 – Brisbane, QLD)

This week has been a great opportunity to spend time with my son… to see more of his spirit, and to learn more about myself. I loved the white-water rafting, the mountain talk, and the initiation ceremony. I’ve come to realise that I need to step up, speak up, and be more intentional.”  (Mark M. – Age 52 – Brisbane, QLD)

This week has given me the opportunity to better connect with my son, and to learn more about being an authentic man. It was also a great adventure and a holiday. I loved having the opportunity to affirm my son. I enjoyed every aspect of this experience… the people, the activities, and the learning. I have learnt to be a better man / father, and the importance of spending more and more quality time with my son.”  (Barry – Age 51 – Sydney, N.S.W.)

This experience has impressed on me the value of being a father and the need to lead and guide my son into how to be an authentic man. This has helped my son and I communicate more closely that we have ever done so before.”  (Greg – Age 51 – Ballarat, VIC)

This has been a great time. Tiring, but fun and stimulating. It’s been so much more than just a vacation, and it’s been a good introduction to manhood for my son. I loved the white-water rafting, and seeing my son so happy after his first scuba dive.”  (Martin – Age 51 – Seattle, WA, U.S.A.)

This has been a special time in my life to create a memorable experience with my son – beyond just the fun, but also to deal with some meaningful issues, such as calling my son to his future.”  (Robert – Age 46 – Wodonga, VIC)

This experience has met and exceeded my hopes yet again. It has provided a space to enable me to reveal more of me to him, and to discover more of him. It has allowed me to direct him, encourage him, affirm him, and see him emerge as more of the man he was meant to be. I loved seeing the tears in my son’s eyes when I affirmed him, and the amazing letter he wrote to me. It has deepened our bond as father & son.”  (Peter – Age 45 – Melbourne, VIC)

This week has helped me to connect with my son and to show him the way to young manhood in a way that I couldn’t have done otherwise. The initiation ceremony will remain in my memory forever.”  (Shane – Age 43 – Wodonga, VIC)

This week has been a wonderful time with my eldest son, great adventure, time with great men, excellent instruction on manhood, and in particular an outstanding opportunity to affirm my son in such a significant way and call him forward into manhood. I learnt more about manhood and fatherhood, and I got to know my son even better, even though I had already been quite intentional and shared a great relationship with him.”  (Clive – Age 43 – Melbourne, VIC)

This experience has been a time to invest in my son and the next generation. It’s been an opportunity to have fun time with him and deepen our relationship and friendship.”  (Kobus – Age 39 – Townsville, QLD)

 

See our photo albums containing many more pictures of the week’s adventures:

1. Tully River White-Water Rafting photos

2. Snorkeling out on the Great Barrier Reef

3. Sea Kayaking between South Mission Beach & Dunk Island

4. Hiking to the summit of Bicton Hill

5. Where we called home during the 5 Night Father-Son Adventure

 

Our next 5 Night Father-Son Adventures are in…

1. July 1-6, 2017, and

2. September 23-28, 2017

A Mother’s Role in the Masculine Initiation of her Son

Dear precious Mother,

Firstly I would like to encourage you, to encourage & support your son and his father, uncle, grandfather, mentor, or significant male other, to participate in one of our 5 Night Father-Son Adventures. I acknowledge that it would be a sacrifice for you… especially in regards to time and finances… although I firmly believe that you will all be richly rewarded for those sacrifices… as has been the case in the lives and families of so many already.

I imagine that in so many ways, it seems like just yesterday that your now teenage son was born. The birthing process was not complete until the umbilical cord between he and the placenta which your body grew to sustain & nourish him during pregnancy, was severed. The cord was cut, and it was then that I imagine you held your baby boy in your arms, and nothing else that was happening in the world seemed to matter.

It’s highly likely that you experienced some kind of postpartum blues in the days after his birth… the majority of Mothers do. It’s a completely normal reaction to the separation of your baby from your womb… no longer one being, but two.

Well heads up Mum, you’re about to experience the second, and just as necessary postpartum experience. Your boy is well on his way to becoming a man, and on the final evening of our 5 Night Father-Son Adventure, your son’s father, or significant male other will call him out of boyhood, and into either young manhood, or authentic manhood, depending upon his age. Your relationship will never, and should never be the same again. And just like the first postpartum at birth, you may also experience emotion that you are unable to explain. That’s completely normal. Try and relax, and give yourself a break. It’s perfectly OK to grieve what’s been lost, but it’s also time to celebrate what has begun.

This season of your son’s life is where his Dad’s influence, or the influence of a significant male other in your son’s life must increase, because masculinity is bestowed by masculinity. Femininity can never bestow masculinity. For this reason, a son will instinctively begin to pull away from you during these years, hence this letter giving you the heads up in regards to what’s coming, as an attempt to prepare you for these times. Without question, your son will still turn to you for comfort, but if Dad is involved, he will turn to him, and so well he should, for adventure, for the opportunity to test his strength, and most of all, to receive the answer to his question… Do I have what it takes?

Very few Mothers handle this transition well, but it’s important that you do, otherwise things can & often do go bad. It’s a time where boundaries need to be established, and the change in your relationship must be redefined, for the sake of you both.

So, once again I encourage you to encourage & support your son and his father or significant male other to participate in one of our 5 Night Father-Son Adventures. And then plan a celebration dinner upon his return home. If you have the time to do so, you might like to prepare a montage of photographs from your son’s life, but most importantly, this is the time for you to speak beautiful and affirming words to your son… preferably in public, and especially in front of the rest of your family. This is a milestone in your son’s life, and a milestone in the life of your family. You can do this! You can once again be the life-giver your son needs you to be! I trust you will shine.

To help give you a balanced perspective of what to expect, and what I have attempted to convey above, I have asked my beautiful wife Melissa to offer you some timely words of encouragement… from one Mother to another. Here’s what she has to say… A Letter to Mums – from a Mum – on the matter of Masculine Initiation.

Please don’t be afraid to ask questions here of either myself, or Melissa.

Isaac’s Invitation into a Community of Men Weekend

It was early Saturday morning December 11, 2010, and I had organised 5 other men to join me… to call my second son Isaac (14 years of age) out of the world of boys & women, and call him into a community of men, as I had done for his older brother 3 years earlier. This was to be just one of the numerous moments Isaac will experience during his 2-year long vision quest, which commenced on his 13th birthday, and will conclude on his 15th birthday with a final ceremony and celebration. It’s his rite-of-passage… the years set apart for him to transition out of the stage of boyhood, and initiated into young manhood.

I had planned a weekend away for us all… a weekend of adventure (abseiling… rappelling for those of my American friends reading… and fishing)… a weekend of masculinity bestowing masculinity… a weekend where my son would experience first-hand how real men have fun together… preparing him if you will… to easily identify any counterfeit adventure he might come across in the future, like teenage boys consuming alcohol, and experimenting with drug use.

And so the weekend officially began… all of us men calling out Isaac’s name from our front yard, whilst Isaac sat inside talking with his Mother. That conversation had also been planned by me. Did I mention that Isaac had no idea about any of this? Isaac and my wife Melissa… Isaac’s mother… came to the front door to find us men there waiting for them both. I stepped forward… about half way between the other men and Melissa & Isaac.

I reminded Melissa how nearly 14 years earlier, there was a postpartum… a separation that occurred at Isaac’s birth… a cutting of the cord, and how now was the time for a second postpartum to occur… Isaac leaving behind the stage of boyhood, to join a community of men. In the presence of Isaac and the other men (and a couple of younger brothers by this point in time… not to mention a number of onlooking neighbours), I honoured Melissa for her role as my wife and the mother of our children. And then I asked her to release Isaac into the care of this community of men I had assembled… all of who had played an important role in Isaac’s life previously. She released him with her blessing… and of course some tears.

And then it was Isaac’s turn. It was time for him to respond to our invitation of him joining this community of men. What would it cost him? Leaving boyhood behind! The process was a moving experience for Isaac too. He wiped away his tears, hugged his mother, and advanced toward me, and then I lead him toward the other men, where each one of us blessed & affirmed him… speaking deeply into his life. And then we all jumped into our car… a beaten up old Tarago, and we embarked upon the 4 hour drive North.

When we arrived, we had some lunch and suited up our harnesses for our abseiling adventure. And then down came the rain. It poured down without ceasing, flooded the area, and then after an hour, the abseiling was postponed until the following morning.

Overnight the heavy rain had reduced to just light showers. We all ate a hearty breakfast, and then the sky cleared. We suited up again, and this time, we were off. Isaac was nervous. Saying that he’s not fond of heights is an understatement. But he wanted to go over the edge and down the cliff nonetheless. And so he began. He pushed through his fears, and went over the edge… maybe 1 to 2 metres down the vertical rock-face, before telling our guides he wanted to climb back up to the top, and not continue downward.

Even though he had navigated through the scariest part of an abseiling experience (going over the edge), I knew as his father, I was needed at that moment, to speak against all of the waves of accusation that would come against him. And that’s exactly what was going on within him. He was ashamed that he had not completed the adventure. He wept openly, and referred to himself as a failure. That’s when I spoke truth into him… that he was not a failure… that despite his fear of heights, he went over the edge.

After I had helped him to calm down, I asked him if he’d like me to buy him a Coke. He said that he didn’t deserve it, and so in I went again… to play my part as his Dad… to rescue him, to guard his heart, to speak against the lies with truth. It was beautiful. What if I had not been there to interpret what he thought was failing? How many of us have had such an experience, and not had anyone there to interpret the moment?

Afterwards, I asked all of the men to gather around a table where I shared what had been going on inside of Isaac. I told them what I had said to him, and invited each of them to also share what they saw in Isaac. The words of encouragement flowed, and Isaac began to believe. His countenance shifted, and from then on, he held his head high.

If you have a son aged 13 and up… there’s no maximum age limit, and it’s never too late… then bring him along to a 5 Night Father-Son Adventure with us and other father-son pairs from around the world. Register your interest here.

I also encourage you to share a story of yours here… of a time when you began to believe a negative message about yourself. Did you have a Dad, a significant male other, or even better still, a community of men to help interpret the moment for you… to fight for your heart?

P.S. I believe there is great value in providing a Mother’s perspective on the concept of masculine initiation, and so, I invited my wife Melissa to share some of her own reflections from this specific weekend…

“What a significant moment….I came inside after releasing Isaac and couldn’t just go back to what I was doing before. Something BIG had just taken place in both our lives. Excitement for Isaac and pride in Darren were just 2 of the many emotions swirling in my heart. It is hard to let go as a mum. It is not without a desperate desire to hold on…..to say “not yet”. But to see Isaac’s response to his dad and the other men calling him out was most overwhelming. It was a defining point in time, when he needed me to release him to go forth and become all that he should be. It was beyond words. While hugging him goodbye I whispered to him “You are going to be an incredible man Isaac”. He has just started this journey into young manhood and it is wonderful to know that he is not doing it on his own.”

I’ll provide more for Mothers of sons… specifically those with sons who are being / have been initiated… next time… including some more reflections from Melissa on the process, and perhaps even more importantly… the fruit of it. Next time!

The Importance of the Outdoors in Raising Children

One morning I posed a very simple question to my sons that resulted in some very interesting responses and lengthy conversation.

“What are your all-time favourite experiences / memories?”

Immediately their answers began to flow like a river in flood. Visits to theme parks, the beach, camping, and the first time ever riding a motor-bike. One’s memories would spark another’s. One common theme was that all of their favourite experiences involved the outdoors.

Another common theme was that I had been present. Perhaps if I hadn’t, my kids’ favourite memories may have been very different.

Introducing your son into the great outdoors is an essential part of his development, and you don’t have to be a hunter or extreme adventurer to lead him there. Simply provide him with terrain to explore, rivers to fish, and adventures to live and enjoy e.g. rafting and swimming. The outdoors will provide countless opportunities of calling forth daring and courage, and will undoubtedly provide the testing and challenging necessary to initiate him along his masculine journey.

When my eldest son Brandon turned 13, I invited him into a vision quest… a rite-of-passage… a journey of sorts with me by his side, together navigating through the obstacles a boy encounters as he makes his transition into young manhood.

One of our first experiences together was dubbed his “beloved son” weekend. I wanted him to know that I delighted in him and absolutely loved being with him.

The destination I decided upon was Jourama Falls… a series of waterfalls that cascade down the side of a mountain here in North Queensland. We would swim in a waterhole and check it’s depth before climbing up to the next waterhole above. We repeated this about four or five times before beginning our descent… leaping off the top of each waterfall into the waterhole below.

I knew we would have fun, but what I hadn’t counted on, perhaps naively, was that fear would present itself.

What an unexpected opportunity for Dad to dig deep into the soul of his son… to question his thought processes, and to guide and coach him. To play my part in helping him to examine and overcome his fears was priceless, and a memory that both he and I will treasure for a lifetime.

Another weekend that formed part of Brandon’s vision quest was dubbed his “community of men” weekend.

Four of my good friends and I invited Brandon into our community of men for the weekend, where we demonstrated how real men have fun. We went white-water rafting and we hiked to the summit of a mountain. Of course the white-water rafting was a blast, but my biggest shock came during the hike.

My son was a very capable long-distance runner, so I thought the hike for him would be just a stroll in the park. About one-third of our way in, Brandon stopped and stated that he was unable to continue. We were all able to speak into his life at that moment, reminding him that we all believed in his ability to push on and reach the summit, and that we would help him get there.

He pressed on and was the second of our party to reach the summit. We asked him if it had been worth it, and as he surveyed the 360 degree unobstructed views below him, he responded with a resounding “Yes”.

I warned him that there would be times in the future… at school and during marriage etc., when he would feel like quitting. I instructed him to remember this moment on the mountaintop… to remember the taste of accomplishing something he didn’t think he could.

I remain committed to my role as father of my four sons, committed to pursuing a deeper relationship with each of them, committed to providing them with a wide variety of outdoor experiences, committed to modelling authentic masculinity to them, and committed to one day leaving a legacy of four great, society-contributing men who will live on to offer even more to their families.

Be sure too to ask your children what their all-time favourite experiences / memories are. It will provide you with the clues you need to truly know your child’s heart.

For Dads who are also committed to their sons, please explore the ‘Fathering Adventures’ website at www.fatheringadventures.com.au.

Yours for getting our kids outdoors.

PS. Do you have any personal stories you would like to share? We would love to hear them. Please post in the comment section below.