#60 – Milestones and Rites of Passage
Today we speak with Steven Arms, Co-author of Milestone to Manhood, A Christian Rite of Passage to Help Your 13-Year-Old Son Make the Leap from Boyhood to Manhood.
The ideas we discuss apply to all Dads (not just dads with 11 or 12-year-old sons).
What is a rite of passage, and how to tell if one is right for your family?
At what age should you start preparing your kids for a rite of passage?
Share some of your mistakes with your children while avoiding unnecessary details.
The three most valuable words to tell your kids next to I love you. (hint: it’s about being proud).
The Role of Modeling: If you’re not living up to your strengths and weaknesses in your day-to-day life, then your words will fall on deaf ears.
Enjoy this eye-opening conversation!
Like this episode? You can check out more of our Dad Podcasts.
Will Braunstein, A Dad’s Path: Hello, and welcome to another episode of A Dad’s Path podcast. I’m Will Braunstein. Today, I’m here with Steven Arms, the author of Milestone to Manhood. The book is about rites of passage, traditions, rituals, and most of all, how to help turn your boy into a man. The subtitle of the book is A Christian Rite of Passage to Help Your 13-Year-Old Son Make the Leap from Boyhood to Manhood.
Now, as always, this is not just for dads with 11, or 12-year-old sons. This podcast is for every dad trying to raise a son or a daughter. The ideas that we’re going to discuss are very much applicable for all ages. Welcome, Steven. Thanks for joining us.
Steven Arms, Author of Milestone to Manhood: Thanks for having me, Will.
Will: I love the book. Again, to give my listeners a little background, I’m Jewish. [chuckles] The book is ostensibly aimed for Christian. We’re talking about Christian rights of passage, but there’s parts in there that are a whole section that’s just for if you have different faith, if you don’t have faith, things like that. Again, this is really, I found a really fascinating book. Maybe we can start Steven, with what a rite of passage is. Maybe some traditions, but also just how you define that, and why it’s important.
Steven: Sure. In our context, a rite of passage is an event that a boy can look back on in his life, and know, “That was the moment that I became a man.” Generally speaking, a rite of passage is an event that marks the transition from one stage in life to another. A wedding is a rite of passage, a graduation ceremony is a rite of passage. High school is ending, and college or the working life begins. In a wedding, your single life is ending, and your married life is beginning. In this context, we’re talking about the end of boyhood, and the beginning of manhood.
Historically, cultures from around the world have had right-of-passage rituals. Examples of this are probably, the most famous example is the Jewish bar mitzvah. I think that’s the one that most people are familiar with. Another one would be the Aboriginal Australian walkabout, where they send the boys off into the wilderness for three to six months at a time. Then when the boy comes back, he’s no longer considered to be a boy, he’s considered to be a man, and he’s eligible for marriage.
Modern western society doesn’t really have an equivalent coming-of-age event. I think that’s one reason why we are failing to develop men who are virtually masculine. We see that men are extending their boyhood well into their 20s, 30s, and sometimes even longer. I think one reason for that is simply because no one has ever told them manhood has begun. Manhood began a long time ago. Examples of that I would say are pornography or the sexual conquest of women, or video game addictions.
In a video game, you can literally slay a dragon that totally plays into that masculine ego. Other ways that boys try to prove themselves as men would be violence or joining a gang, or doing crazy, and extreme stunts like jumping off 50-foot cliffs into water. All those are ways that boys ultimately are trying to prove themselves as men. What we argue in the book is that, if a father just takes the time to use his words, and tell his son, “Hey, son, I just want you to know that in my eyes, you are no longer a boy, but you are a man,” then the boy doesn’t feel the need to prove his manhood to himself and to rebel in the same way.
His masculine identity is affirmed by his father who’s the primary male role model in his life. The primary example of what it means to be a man.
Will: Super interesting. I like that a lot. Just logically, the rite of passage is going to be a big enough event that there has to be a shift, I think, in mindset, which then can affect those actions. To your point, there’s a lot of challenges that males are facing. You hit the nail on the head, pornography, video games, drugs, not working, whatever it is, not just males, but it’s saying, “Hey, there are these holes. How do you fill them, or how do you get them before they turn into holes?”
How do you step the leader as a dad and say, “This is what’s right, this is what’s wrong, and I’m living that example. I’ve made these mistakes,” et cetera? When you go through the write a passage, we’ll talk about some of what you’ve developed there, but in general, how much is the– I don’t know if confession is the right word, but the humanizing side of being a dad saying, “Hey, I’ve made these mistakes. I did these things well, I did these things not so well.” Is that important to the process, or how would you characterize that?
Steven: I would say, overall, yes, that part of being a man is being able to admit your own mistakes, and see yourself for who you truly are. Know your own weaknesses. Know your strengths, and know your weaknesses. Part of the weekend is sharing that with your son that no man is perfect, including his own dad. At the same time, I think there’s also an argument to be made that you don’t have to overshare with your son.
Maybe there are some mistakes that you’ve made in the past that you’ve really tried to make amends for, and clean up in your life, and your son doesn’t really need to know all the dirty nitty gritty details. Part of the weekend is sharing positive and negative character traits that you see in yourselves. Those might be things like, “I really value honesty and hard work, and my faith.” Then your negative character traits might be something like, “I can find myself being greedy at times, lustful at times, and lazy at times,” as examples.
Sharing that with your son is important so that he can have a model of how he’s going to improve himself when he sees negative character traits as he develops into a man. You don’t have to share all the mistakes that you’ve made on a personal story level. There’s a balance there, I would say.
Will: That makes a lot of sense because when you overshare, it can also be encouraging the wrong [laughs] mistakes that you’ve made. I’d rather my kid not say, “This is okay of a mistake,” whatever. I’d rather them just avoid that completely, for example. That makes sense. The book’s super interesting. We were talking before the recording that the first part of the book is about your rite of passage actually. As you experienced this with your father, it sounded like his father, your grandpa was not physically there as much. He was in Mexico. Can you talk about that a little bit, and how that might have affected your father, and then you?
Steven: Sure. My paternal grandfather was a World War II veteran, and after he came home from the war, he developed multiple sclerosis, which is a disease that attacks the body, and ultimately, you need 24-hour care. You need a caregiver. He was on a VA pension, so he couldn’t really afford 24-hour care in the United States. He moved down to Guadalajara, Mexico and my dad stayed with my mom in California.
My dad didn’t really have a father figure growing up in the house. He had his mom and his grandmother, and his sister, but he was the only male in the house. When he grew older, it was really important for him A, to marry a woman who was not going to leave him because he came from a broken family. Divorce was not going to be an option for my dad. He did not want that in his own life. Then two, he wanted to be the type of dad that he never had.
He wanted to be a really involved dad in his kids’ lives, really participating in going to all the sports events, and just being the type of dad where we can rely on. When my older brother turned 13, he wanted to do something special to mark this entrance into his teenage years, mark the entrance into manhood. He actually, worked with his father-in-law, my maternal grandfather, to develop this rite of passage weekend. He gave it to my older brother when he turned 13, and then he gave it to myself, and all of my younger brothers as well. Every boy in my family got one of these weekends.
Will: That’s awesome. That’s really interesting. I love the traditions, I love any healthy tradition, and this certainly, is one of those. I love that when your dad was preparing for your older brother to turn 13, he said, “Okay, what are we going to put together to help this– what does this rite of passage look like?” At the same time, you can’t just take a random 12-year-old off the street, and say, “Here’s your rite of passage. You were a boy, now you’re a man.” As we’re discussing, a lot of my listeners have younger kids.
How do we get to a point saying, “I want to do some sort of rite of passage when they’re 13, but what should I be doing before that to prepare them? Not just for the rite of passage, but to prepare them to be ready to be men or women after the rite of passage?”
Steven: That’s a great question. For one, I think just knowing about this whole concept of a rite of passage. I meet so many people who I tell them about this weekend and my own personal experience and they have kids that are in their 20s or 30s and they’re like, “Man, I wish I knew about this earlier. “Half the battle is just knowing it. After listening to this podcast, your listeners will know about it.
The second thing I’ll say is that the rite of passage weekend, it’s a really special weekend but it is just one weekend of their life. If you want to be that amazing father in your son or daughter’s life, that’s about showing up every single weekend, every single weekday. This is just one moment in their life but that doesn’t mean that you can not be a good father the other 99% of their life and then do this one weekend and think that everything’s going to turn out okay.
I guess what to say is you have to practice what you preach. In the weekend, you’re going to talk about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a good man. You’re going to talk about your own strengths and weaknesses as a man. If you’re not living up to that in your own day-to-day life, then it doesn’t really mean anything. Your words are going to fall on deaf ears.
Will: To your point, you can’t hop in [laughs] at 12 and a half and say, “Hey, I’m your dad now, and these are the rituals. This is what you’re going to learn from me.” No, it’s all about modeling and that’s what we say in gosh, it feels like every podcast. I’m going to lose listeners because of that but because it’s so important. Kids don’t listen to what you say, they listen to what you do. They learn from what you do.
Steven: I agree with that. Your actions speak louder than your words, but every now and then, you still have to use your words. I think that’s one thing that we forget as fathers, how important it is to look your kids in the eyes every now and then and tell them, “I love you.” We should be using our words too, and not just our actions. There’s a healthy balance you have to have there between your actions and your words.
I think sadly, one phrase that we’re not saying enough of as dads is, “Son, I want you to know I no longer consider you to be a boy, but I consider you to be a man now.” If every dad told his 13-year-old son that exact phrase, I think that this country would be a much better place. Men would benefit and women would benefit too because we would develop into better husbands and better fathers because our dads gave us that gift of manhood.
Will: I think that’s a really astute point, just defining it and then also what you said about being vocal. The first thing you said really resonated as well, that I love you. That’s something I say to my kids all the time, but the way you put it resonated differently. Look them in the eye, say it clearly like, “I love you.” That makes such a difference. It’s not always something that is comfortable for men to do, or as comfortable. For kids, in my experience boys are girls, they want to hear. It doesn’t matter boys, girls, it doesn’t matter. They want to know that support’s there, that love is there for them.
Steven: They totally eat it up. Another good one is, “I’m proud of you.” When you tell that to your kids, they will just light up. I came from a family of four boys, so growing up for me was very much like that masculine energy. Now that I’m married, our firstborn is a girl. I have a three-year-old daughter. At first, I was like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve only been raised with boys, I did boy scouts growing up. I went to an all-boys Catholic high school. I don’t know what it’s going to be like to raise a daughter.”
My father-in-law raised three girls and he is such a words of affirmation person. He’s always complimenting his girls, telling them they’re beautiful, telling them he’s proud of them. That’s one thing I realized is as a dad of a girl, I need to be telling her that she’s beautiful, that I’m proud of her, that I love her because if she doesn’t get it from me, she’s going to look for it from somebody else. I want to be the person that’s giving that to her and speaking life into her.
Will: I love that. I think you’re spot on and it’s interesting that, again, the book says it’s about helping your 13-year-old son make the leap from boyhood to manhood. Now that you have a girl, do you think about doing some rite of passage with her for her or do you want your wife to? How are you thinking about that?
Steven: Like I said, come from a family of only boys, but my girl cousins, they did get a female version of the rite of passage. A female version is essentially the same as the male version of a rite of passage. It’s all the women role models in her life that do her rite of passage. It’s the mom, the grandmother, the aunties that take her away for a weekend. I’ve never been on one of those female rite of passage weekends because my dad was never part of one. We didn’t feel like we were the right people to write that book but a female rite of passage does exist. When my daughter turns 13, my wife and my mom and my mother-in-law, and my daughter’s aunts will have a rite of passage for her as well.
Will: I like that. I assume you think it’s important to separate the genders to have men lead the rite of passage for boys and women to lead it for girls?
Will: Is that a role model thing as opposed to the family doing it together or something? The mom and the dad helping the boy.
Steven: The reason that we have just the men taking the boys away and the women of the family taking the girls away is because a lot of the weekend is centered around discussions that you will have with the boy or the girl. For the boy, for example, there’s a discussion of what it means to be a virtuous man and how to be a man operating in the 2020s that is not overly macho, but also not a was.
That fine line of what good manhood is. We felt that because a woman can’t give advice about what it means to be a man, that it should be men that take the boy away. I also think that there’s something powerful for a 13-year-old boy to have all the men in his life tell him, “You are a man.” I don’t mean to degrade or discount how impactful a mother or a grandmother can be. That’s important too, but I think when you’re 13 and you see these guys in your life like your dad and your grandfather, and you’re like, “I know those guys are men. I look up to them, I respect them, I love them.”
When they tell you, “We see you as a man,” then you believe it a little bit more, because you’re not telling it to yourself. It’s another person who you know that’s a man. They’re not telling you you’re a man and then you believe it more.
Will: That makes sense.
Steven: That was definitely my experience. After having this rite of passage, my grandfather told me, “In this family, you’re no longer a boy, but you are a man.” As I went through my teenage years, I never really questioned masculine identity or my identity as a man. One example that I’ll give is that in high school or doing boy scouts, there were to be teachers or parents that would say something like, “Boys, please settle down,” if the class was being loud or rowdy.
Any time a teacher like that addressed me or even just as a group of boys, the first thought in my mind was, “This person doesn’t know. I’m not a boy, I’m a man. My dad told me.” It wasn’t that I was disrespectful or thought less of them. It was just I knew in my soul that I was a man because of what my dad, my grandfather, and my uncles did for me that weekend.
Will: Did you find your behavior changed after that, I guess, the next couple of years? Instead of being the one talking in class, you’d feel, “Gosh, this isn’t what a man will do.” Did it affect you that way? Can you talk about how the mental shift? You talked a little bit, but I’d love you to expand on that.
Steven: I would say it did affect the way that I thought. I saw myself as a man. Now, to be totally honest with you, I was not an angel teenager, an angel child. I had my own fair share of difficulties growing up. I’m not perfect by any means. This rite of passage weekend is not a cure-all but I do think that it really helped in that for one, I never questioned my masculine identity. Two, the other way that it really affected my life is that I really felt welcomed and accepted by the men in my family.
One of the things that was said quite often during the weekend was, “At the end of this weekend, you’re going to be a man now in this family. We men are committed to helping each other in any way that we can. We love you unconditionally. If you ever need our advice or if you’re ever going through a rough patch in life or having questions about things, please come to us for advice, for counsel, because we have your best interest at heart. We won’t judge you. We’ll love you unconditionally and you can call on us at any time. Our doors are always opened.”
As a 13-year-old, I heard it, but I didn’t know how valuable that would be. It really wasn’t until my 20s when I was in college, I was really questioning, who am I? What do I believe? I know how I was raised, but what do I want to do with my life? I was nervous to talk to my parents about it because I was like, “Oh, what are they going to think if I tell them I’m questioning my belief in God and I don’t know if I want to practice my faith anymore?”
It was really scary thinking about having that conversation with them but ultimately, I remembered that rite of passage weekend and how they all said, “We love you unconditionally. You can come to us with anything. We won’t judge you. We have your best interest at heart. That memory gave me the confidence to go back to my dad, to go back to my grandfather and saying, “Hey, I’m having a lot of questions and I just need help navigating my life.”
They weren’t able to answer every question that I had, but they were able to share more about their own journey and how they think. That way, my grandfather and my dad really became mentors in my life. They helped me choose what career to go into, what to look for in a woman when I was dating, and going through that. Like, “Is this the one? Is this not the one?” Not that they were overly involved in my life, but I felt like I had mentors and I had men that I could lean on. That was one really powerful way that really affected my life growing up.
Will: That’s amazing. You’re basically saying you were 13 and you knew you had that support and it was when you were 20-something, so 10 years later or so when you really leaned on them or that was a time you really leaned on it. That’s crazy to me that it’s that lasting and also a testament to the power of your particular rite of passage and how it worked and how it’s still staying with you obviously. You saw your older brother go through it. You said he’s three years older than you or something like that.
Steven: Two years.
Will: When did you find out about the rite of passage?
Steven: I found out about the rite of passage the morning of my rite of passage. In our family, it’s a total secret. The boy doesn’t know that it’s coming. Part of the thinking of it being a secret is that we wanted it to be special, we wanted the boy to feel special. This isn’t something that everybody gets. Even though everyone in our family does get it, we wanted him to feel like, “Wow, you guys went through all the effort to do this. I had no idea this was coming. I feel really loved right now.”
The thinking was we didn’t want the boy to know that this was coming and maybe have preconceived notions of, “Oh, I got this weekend that my family does. My family’s super weird.”
Will: It’s different.
Steven: Instead, when it’s a surprise, it’s like, “Wow, I had no idea. I feel really special.”
Will: That’s really interesting. Out of curiosity, was your brother at your right of passage?
Steven: My older brother should have been. He actually stayed home with a cold that weekend, but like I said in our family, once you go through the weekend, you’re considered to be a man and that means that you can attend the rights of passage of all the younger men. I went to the rite of passage of my two younger brothers, and then my two younger male cousins as well.
Will: There’s a lot of different rituals you talk about in the book that you do. I wonder if you could maybe address one or two of them. Just to throw a softball up, the one that I thought was pretty interesting was writing positive and negative virtues on a sheet of paper or a stick. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Steven: Yes, sure. Really, there are seven different rituals that we engage in that make up the weekend, that makes our weekend special. One of the rituals is, we call it the ribbon ceremony. In the ribbon ceremony, every man and the boy has a stick and the men have six ribbons tied to their stick on the ribbons, they write down three positive character traits that they see in themselves, and they write down three negative character traits that they see in themselves.
Then they share with the group why they wrote down what they wrote down. Then once everyone has shared, the boy goes around to the other men in the group and he unties the character traits that he wants to emulate from the men off of their sticks and then he ties them onto his own stick. Ideally, at the end of the sharing exercise, the boy is left with a stick full of positive character traits and the men are left with sticks full of their negative character traits.
Really what this is meant to show in a visible way is that as men, we have the ability to surround ourselves with other good men and to emulate their character traits from them. My grandfather was a really loving and caring person. He was the type of person where when you spent time with him, you just felt better about yourself. He was always lifting you up, so he wrote down friendly. That’s something in my life that I have tried to emulate. When I meet people, I try to give them compliments and give them a smile and make them feel better about themselves because this life is hard and we all need support.
That’s what the ribbon ceremony was. Like you said, it was a really cool way to talk about your strengths, your weaknesses, and to project on the boy like, “This is what we consider to be a man. This is the bar that we’re setting, and we want you to be that type of man as well.”
Will: I really like reading about that ceremony. At the end of it, you have the stick. Do you keep the stick with the virtues on it or do you write them down, or is it just something that’s in your mind, and then though the details might go away, you understand. What do you do with that? How do you remember it? How do you codify that?
Steven: The boy keeps his stick. I actually still have mine in the back closet at my parent’s house. I do still have it. Another ritual of the weekend is we light a fire, and for us, the fire represents the Holy Spirit and it represents God’s presence in our life. Just as Moses in the Book of Exodus, he encounters God in the form of a burning bush, during the weekend, the fire represents God and we keep the fire going throughout the entire weekend to show the importance of faith and how sometimes our faith is really hot and sometimes is colder, but what’s most important is that that flame never gets fully extinguished.
The men are left with their sticks of negative character traits and they take those sticks and they actually place them in the fire, which represents A, their desire to burn away their defects, and B, their reliance on God to help them do so.
Will: That’s really interesting. I like that a lot and I appreciate that you got to keep your stick too, and the symbolism behind burning the sticks. Fire has a lot of meaning, both religious and non-religious. This might be a good opportunity to talk about how this type of ritual could work or what it could look like if you’re not Christian, if you’re not Jewish, if you don’t have faith, you don’t have a specific faith, but you want to raise a boy to a man.
Steven: Our weekend is really designed around a Christian right of passage. Now, when I was writing it, I was feeling like this whole idea of a right of passage, it doesn’t have to be just for a Christian family or a religious family, I feel like every boy, no matter what your faith background is should have a rite of passage. We discuss ideas about how to make this rite of passage weekend your own to make it appropriate for your family.
One example that we give is changing up a ritual. We have this scripture-sharing exercise where every man picks a passage from the Bible, shares why he picked it, and how he applies it to his life. One way that you could adapt that is every man could bring that one book that he read that really changed his life, his favorite book, and he could share with the boy and with the other men why he picked that book, how it changed his life and then at the end, he could give a copy of that book to the boy so that a boy could read it when he grows up at the appropriate age. That’s one way that you could tweak the weekend to make it appropriate to whatever religious or non-religious values that you have.
Will: That really resonates as well with me as a way to communicate your values and what resonates with you. One thing we didn’t talk about yet, but this is a ritual to help a boy become a man. We have all these men leading it too and when you’re as a man, you’re writing down your negative virtues, the things that you really want to improve, you’re improving yourself. This isn’t just about helping a boy, this is helping yourself if you’re leading it right, or if you’re part of it.
Steven: Yes, 100%. I think I had my own rite of passage, but I also went to four others for my brothers and my cousins. I’ll say that I think sometimes the men on the trip can get even more out of the weekend than the boy does, because as a 13-year-old, honestly, a lot of it just goes over their head. They don’t have that life experience to relate to a lot of what’s being shared with them, but the men do. In our family, every time we’ve had one of these weekends and we’re done with it, we’re like, “Man, I wish we could do this more often. I wish this was an annual thing that our family did.”
I don’t mean to downplay how important this is in a boy’s life. For me, I can say firsthand that this changed my life for sure, but it’s just as valuable for the men who attend the weekend as well.
Will: That’s fantastic. That’s part of being a dad is, being introspective. Again, you’re modeling so what are you modeling? What are you saying? How do you want your kid to turn out? Starts thinking of, “Oh, I don’t want them to be as greedy as I am. I don’t want them to be as grumpy as I am.” That’s a great way to help ourselves as well through that process. What would you say, I love that it’s a surprise. You have a set age 13, but what should you not do beforehand? Not right before, but [chuckles] the 12 years before, as you’re raising your kid, as you mentioned, you should be there, you can’t just jump in.
What are things that you also should not be doing to get ready for the process? Because if you have a kid who you haven’t raised well, it’ll be a lot more challenging to say, ‘Hey, here’s your rite of passage.” What does that not well-raising look like to you?
Steven: Two things come to mind. One is this weekend is not the birds and the bees talk, I had that talk, I think when I was 10 or 11 years old, maybe earlier. To be honest, I can’t really remember. I knew what sex was before the weekend. I think that the birds and the bees talk can be very sensitive, that the child is learning something that really is going to change his life or her life and there’s going to be strong emotions around that. This weekend is not supposed to be that talk. That should be separate from this weekend because that can open up a whole other can of worms.
Then the other thing I would say is that this weekend, it should be focused on the boy. What I mean by that is, if there’s strained relationships in your family, whether it’s an uncle who he hasn’t seen for 10 years or maybe it’s his own dad, maybe his dad is not active in his life, this weekend is not meant to heal those relationships. The men that should be invited should be men that he has strong relationships with, men who he respects. It’s not meant to stir up old wounds. This should be a positive experience for him. It shouldn’t be something that’s like, “Oh, why is he here?” It shouldn’t be your roommate from college, your buddy. It should be someone who the boy knows and respects and loves.
Will: That makes a lot of sense. I like how you’re separating out some of those big conversations from this very specific ritual, this rite of passage of helping turn your boy into a man because I think a lot of that gets lost where it’s easy to wait or look for physical things. “He’s getting a little gangly. His voice is changing, he’s getting some hair on his leg.” Those sorts of things where physically your body is changing and becoming a man but growing up is about so much more. Certain values and ways you should act or not act. It’s important to articulate that.
Steven: For sure. I think that’s one reason why we choose to do it at 13. Admittedly, 13 is on the early side. At 13 years old, you’re not going to move out of your parents’ house, you’re not going to drive a car, you’re not going to get a job. We felt that it’s probably better to initiate a boy into manhood a little bit too early, rather than a little bit too late. If you wait until he’s 18 or 21, there’s a good chance by that point, he’s already made some pretty significant life decisions that could really affect the rest of his life. We wanted to give the weekend to bestow the title of man, to let the boy know you are part of other men who you can rely on.
We wanted to let them know that as early as possible or as early as we felt was appropriate. 13-year-old we thought there’s probably some wisdom in the Jewish bar mitzvah. They do it at 13. We should probably do it at 13 as well.
Will: I was thinking about that too when it’s just the 13. It’s like, “That’s pretty arbitrary because some kids are going to be more mature, some kids are going to be less mature. I think if you hit the nail on the head, it’s a lot better to be a little early than a little late. Early being, “Hey, I wasn’t thinking about this.” Late being like, “Are they reacting to my behavior, or are they–” By being proactive in a little earlier? I think you’re setting a different tone, which I really appreciate.
Steven: The other thing I think, is that 13, admittedly, it kind of is arbitrary but if you try to base it off of each boy, like, “Oh, he’s a little bit more mature, he’s a little bit less mature, we’ll do his 15, we’ll do his 12.” I think down the road your boys if you have multiple sons, they’re going to talk and they’ll be like, “Why did I have mine at 15 and you had yours at 12?” Maybe some sort of favoritism there and there could harbor resentment, like, “Why did he get his so early? You thought I was so immature as a boy.” When you just pick no, across the board, it’s 13 years old, then it cuts out any of that idea of favoritism or you thought I was immature when I was growing up.
Will: That makes a lot of sense. My one last question here, before I let you go is about heirlooms or sentimental items that you give during that rite of passage. Just because for me, I’m always thinking about things like that, not just a rite of passage but what can I pass on to my child that’s meaningful to me that can be meaningful to them. Can you talk about what that looked like for you and how you frame that?
Steven: Sure. During the weekend, you’re giving a lot of advice to your son. You’re having discussions about what it means to be a man, what work means, what relationships mean, a lot of times, you’re having these adult conversations for the very first time with your son. There’s an element of trust that goes along with that. One of the rituals that we included in the weekend was the giving of a family heirloom. We gave the boy something that could be handed down from one generation to the next that had sentimental value to the family. Just like we’re giving valuable advice to the boy, we also give something material that’s valuable to the boys as well.
For me, my dad gave me a silver dollar that his dad had given to him. Monetarily, I don’t know if it’s worth more than $20 or $50 but because it was something that his dad gave to him, it had a lot of meaning to him. My dad didn’t really know his own dad. This was something that was one of the only things I have from him. The fact that he was giving that to me was a sign, I can trust you too now. You’re 13 years old, I see you as a man, I can trust you with something that’s valuable to me. Other examples. I know my cousin got a pocket watch that was also handed down from his grandfather and another cousin got a pocketknife.
This whole idea of giving a gift, I think, ideally, if it’s something that’s been in the family for one or two generations, makes it appropriate. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that’s thousands of dollars, that’s really expensive but something that has more emotional value to you and to your family.
Will: I love that. That’s something that’s been on my mind. I think I’ve mentioned I have a seven-year-old and a four-year-old, so still a little bit off. Wanting to think of things that I’ve gotten from my parents or my grandparents that have meaning because that’s the physical good and not material value but the sentimental value, the representation of what it is. Something that’s been in your family is just a beautiful idea. I like that a lot.
Steven: Thank you.
Will: Steven, this book is amazing. Again, I don’t have a 13-year-old or a 12-year-old and I’m not Christian but the book resonated totally with me. I think you did an amazing job writing it. For any of my listeners who want to get it, you can go to milestonetomanhood.com and find– is that the right address there, Steven?
Steven: Yes. Our website is milestonetomanhood.com and that’s where you can find out more about the book or purchase it as well.
Will: Again, this is just one of those podcasts where there’s a lot of things that we’re talking about something very specific about a ritual for 12-year-olds. That’s not what the podcast is really about. As you heard, there’s a lot we can learn whether you have a boy, whether you have a girl whether you’re expecting but helps you think about how to be a good dad, how to raise a good family. Steven, thank you for joining me here. Thanks for joining us. This was awesome.
Steven: Thanks for having me. It’s been an honor.
Will: Awesome. Take care.
Steven: You too.