This past Monday was a special day for our family. Next week our second daughter begins Kindergarten, so it was the perfect time for her to experience her first rite of passage.
Simply defined, a rite of passage is “a ceremony or event marking an important stage in someone’s life.”
For our family, I’m thinking to create special experiences at 4 key stages in our kids’ lives:
1. Beginning school — preparing for a life of learning.
2. Turning 10 — preparing for a life of purity.
3. Turning 13 — preparing for a life of decisions.
4. Turning 18 — preparing for a life on your own.
So far, we’ve taken our two oldest daughters through #1 (more details below). It’s been wonderful so far, and I’m looking forward to how God will use the experiences to come.
Why Rites of Passage?
1. Special moments deserve special attention. These key transition moments should be celebrated and enjoyed in intentional ways.
2. Big moments create meaningful memories. We tend to remember more when something is a big deal. Thus, rites of passage are wonderful opportunities to shape our kids with important lessons through special memories. These memories also create markers that can be referred to in the future.
3. Rites of passage force parental intentionality. Thinking through a special experience devoted to celebrating and forming our children requires intentional thinking about who are kids are and what lessons we hope to impart. This kind of intentionality is tough in day-to-day life.
4. They are fun! That’s a pretty good reason.
How to do Rites of Passage
1. Decide when is appropriate. My moments are above, but yours may be different. Think about your family and decide what’s best.
2. Determine what you hope to communicate. Each rite of passage experience should be fun, but it should also be formative. For our kids pre-kindergarten experiences, we decided we wanted to share with them four important lessons they would need for their entire life of learning. While there was some overlap, we customized these lessons to the needs of our specific kids.
We wanted our oldest to learn:
(1) Endurance — being able to keep going when something is difficult.
(2) Fun — enjoying what you are experiencing.
(3) Courage — doing something you are afraid of.
(4) Trust God — believing God loves you and will take care of you.
For our second daughter, we kept lessons #1 and #4 but changed the others to better fit her needs:
(2) Teamwork — depending on other people who can help you.
(3) Creativity — using your imagination to create new things.
3. Design the experience. Figure out what kind of experiences (a) are reasonable to do, (b) would communicate creatively, and (c) sound fun. The experience need not be expensive, though it might be worth it if you’re only doing a few in a kids’ lifetime.
For our kids’ pre-kindergarten experiences, we created an experience that would correspond to each lesson we were hoping to teach. As you can see, some were more involved than others:
(1) Endurance — a morning hike up “A” mountain in Tempe. Quite a feat, especially with no complaining.
(2a) Fun — swimming at Mesquite Groves Aquatic Center, a local pool with a small water park.
(2b) Teamwork — a blindfolded obstacle course through a local playground/park, directed by the voice of sister, mom and dad. Also, a 300 piece puzzle that required help.
(3a) Courage — a horseback riding experience with an acquaintance who was so gracious and kind.
(3b) Creativity — a backstage kitchen tour with our friend, Chef David Traina, at Liberty Market followed by a chance to create her own pizza.
(4) Trust God — a “real” Bible, with name engraved.
As you design the experience, think about the people you know, resources you have, and places you could go. Also, for both #3 lessons, I found that people were eager to help us create these experiences with limited cost once they heard what it was about.
4. Deepen the lessons with reminders. Because these moments are so memorable, they provide many opportunities to remind and reinforce the lessons. Even today we can say to our oldest, “Remember when you rode that horse and needed courage? Here’s another chance to be courageous.”
It’s quite likely that not everyone would enjoy something like this. It fits my entrepreneurial, learning-driven personality really well. We have a blast doing it. That said, rites of passage are not a moral imperative. They also are not a golden bullet that are guaranteed to produce some particular result. But so far, they’ve been a lot of fun!
What are some ideas you have for rites of passages?