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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Petty

Ep. 069 | From Boy to Young Man

Reflections on a Rite of Passage, With My Firstborn Son Macgray


A year or so ago, I became captivated by the idea of creating rites of passage experiences for our boys when each of them turned 13--an age that to me represents the transition from childhood to young manhood. I don't remember what first turned me on to the idea. But once it took root in my heart and mind, it didn't let go. I explored the idea further through my own reading about traditional rites of passage and in a conversation with my coach, Amy Musson, in episode 060, called Rites of Passage: How Reviving Neglected Rituals Can Set you Free. I became more and more persuaded of its importance and more and more determined to make it happen for our boys. But I've dreamed big with nothing to show for it before. And in the midst of life's normal everyday demands, it would have been a lot easier NOT to do.

Long-story-short, this episode is a triumphant fist-pump: My wife and I recently pulled off our first rite of passage experience for our older son, Macgray.

Today, Macgray shares what it was like for him and what it meant to him.

What’s In It For You?

Parents with kids still at home, I hope you'll listen closely to Macgray's words and be persuaded to craft a rite of passage for your kids, too, if you haven't already. Everyone else, broaden your application of this episode to any of life's other major transitions--marriage, mid-life, job changes, the death of a loved one, for example. How can ritual accompany those transitions in ways that acknowledge the incredible energy contained within them and channel it in positive ways? What collateral damage will failure to attach ritual to those transitions cause? What benefits might it bring?

What Did Macgray’s Rite of Passage Include?

Before we dive in, some insight into the specifics of Macgray's rite of passage experience will be useful. First, we created a guide that we called The Path to Your Rite of Passage. It shared a bit about the historical precedent for rites of passage and the three traditional phases--preparation, transition, and reintegration--outlined what he could expect for his own rite of passage, and clarified what would be expected of him. In the preparation phase, Macgray was expected to watch and listen to a handful of videos and podcast episodes we handpicked for him and share what he learned with us. In the transition phase--a phase characterized by mental and physical challenge--he was charged with hiking to and successfully crossing the Devil's Causeway, an exposed high-elevation ridge of rock in a nearby wildnerness area. The reintegration phase had two parts: First, a "campfire council of the elders" with me, my dad, and my father-in-law--where we read prepared letters to him of encouragement, exhortation, and instruction, and officially welcomed him into young manhood. Second, upon his return from the campfire council of the elders, a party with the whole family to welcome him back into the family as a young man. Macgray shared some reflections about his rite of passage experience with the family at that gathering, and his mom and two grandmas read their letters to him, too.

I invite you to tune in for the whole candid conversation with my firstborn son, Macgray, recorded in the comfort of his room just a day after the big party with the family, to hear what the rite of passage experience was like for him and what it meant to him. By extension, you’ll learn what role rite of passage experiences can play in your life and the lives of those you love.

The Work Has Only Just Begun

Folks, the rite of passage experience was more meaningful and rewarding than either my wife or I expected it to be. The family party was a tearful and joyful exclamation mark on the whole process. I'm SO glad we put in the time and energy to pull it all together.

The truth is, however, that Macgray didn't magically transform into a fully mature, fully responsible young man simply because he had a rite of passage experience. Nor does it insure that he will become such a man.

The ritual doesn't create the reality. But it does make way for the reality.

Having officially bid farewell to his childhood, intentionally encountered the emotions that come along with that goodbye, and welcomed him into young manhood, we're all reading from the same sheet of music, and the stage is set for his next developmental phase. It will be up to me and my wife to clarify what new responsibilities we expect him to fulfill, to resist the temptation to do for him what he can do for himself, and to provide new freedoms and opportunities as he demonstrates himself to be responsible and trustworthy. It's clearer to me even as I say this that we've got our work cut out for us. In a sense, it really would have been easier NOT to have gone through with the whole thing--not to have set our sights so high for him and for us. But it only would have been easier in the short-term.

In the long-term, the unnecessary pain and hardship brought upon Macgray and, by extension, upon ourselves for failing to do our very best to equip him for life on his own would far outweigh the temporary convenience of not creating the rite of passage experience.

What About You?

And so I ask you: Where is ritual missing in your life? What rite of passage awaits that will make way for a new reality for you, your child, or a loved one?

Remember: You ARE going to die. But you're not dead yet. So get after it!

You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel; Borrow Mine!

I'm glad to share the rite of passage guide and share more in-depth about rites of passage and the experience we created for Macgray with anyone who's interested. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, visit my website, or email me.

I’m so glad you tuned in today. Don’t forget to follow this show, and I’ll see you next time on Andrew Petty is Dying.

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Welcome! I invite you to browse the archive of past interviews with fascinating people and short, topical solo episodes--all designed to equip you with the mindset and the means to become the person you were made to be and live the life you were made to live with guts, gusto, and abandon. We flip the script by inviting our ancient foe, Death, to become an unlikely ally in our heroic journey to leave it all out on the field of life. Turns out, Mortality might just be the best motivator available--blasting us out of our ambivalence and complacency and toward the fullness of our potential.

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