I went on a trip a couple of years ago with my son after he turned 13 years old. What was the occasion? My wife and I promised each of our children when they turned 13 years old, they would get to take a special trip with one of us. My son with me, and each of my daughters with my wife. The purpose of these trips is to first have fun and enjoy each other’s company, which is why they each get to pick the destination (must be within a day’s drive) and determine much of the agenda.
There is, however, another purpose for these trips: to celebrate each child is growing up to be a man and likewise our daughters into women. Becoming a teenager can be a scary prospect (for both child and parent), and this often mutes both parent and child from obvious changes taking place. Yet we want it to be something we all would celebrate. We also want to communicate the responsibilities that come with this different life stage as well as some of the developmental aspects of it. Therefore, these trips are also designed for us to have very intentional conversations about life as men and women. Many of these conversations had been already taking place for quite a while, but it provides an atmosphere to delve into them a bit more and reaffirm what has already been said.
Since several of you asked about how I led my son through these conversations on our trip, I thought I would explain it here for others interested in some of those details. The theme of the trip revolved around this biblical manhood template: Protect, provide, and lead.
We read in 1 Peter 3:1–7 about how I am called by God to protect my wife and children from any physical harm. Then, we discussed how my son could engage in this activity in our home. We discussed the practical ways he, too, could protect his mom and sisters from harm, everything from killing bugs to locking doors at night when I am out of town. We also read Proverbs 5 and discussed the need to protect ourselves from the adulterous woman who is after every man to steal him away from his wife. This allowed a fruitful discussion about sexual impurity and the destruction of pornography that we as men are surrounded by and how we protect our hearts and minds from it.
As men, we are called to provide for the needs of our families. We were made to work (Gen. 1–2) and to care for our families by providing the physical, emotional, and spiritual support that each family member needs (1 Tim. 5:8). Because of this, we discussed ways my son could accomplish this, even though he does not have to work to support a family at this time. We talked about how he needs to work hard now at school, competitive swimming, cutting grass, chores, and whatever else in his life that will help develop a work ethic that he can later take into his job that he would use to support a wife and family one day, Lord willing.
We read and discussed many implications to our call as Christian husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her from Ephesians 5:22–33. One of the central ways Christ loved was through humble sacrifice. We talked about how my son could sacrificially serve his mom and sisters to develop that instinct to lead by humble service in the home. Also, we discussed the times I asked him to lead us on a family walk, or when he would pick where we go to eat, thinking of everyone in the family for the best place to go. Those are little ways for my son to lead now (and teach my daughters to follow) and think of how his decisions impact others.
Parents, I don’t think you have to take a trip as we have planned to do with each of our children. If you are able to afford it and do it, great. Regardless, I urge you to be very intentional about not waiting on these kinds of conversations that should be taking place much earlier than 13 years old. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t run from them and wait because you anticipate them being uncomfortable. I promise you it will be too late if you wait until you must have these conversations. Our trip was a joy, very fruitful, and I am sad it will be my only one.
My oldest daughter turns 13 years old in a couple of months (here we go), and her trip is already planned for the fall with my wife. Parents with older kids, what have you done that has been fruitful in this preparation for your own children?
Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.