Letting Down Our Young Men

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now because I have an eight year old boy. Every culture in history has had a Rite of Passage. Something to accomplish or ceremony to go through to let a young man know he is now a man in the eyes of society. It comes with the responsibility of adulthood as well as the privileges of starting a family of your own and being part of the fraternity of men.

In today’s world we have nothing like that. We have youths trying to act like they’re a man even though they have never had a father figure. Their act ends up being a poor representation of a man. They perpetuate that the sins of their fathers and tear down the fabric of society.

So that brings me back to my own sons. Some would say its earning your Eagle Scout. I had Scout leaders that had no interest in actual scouting. Leaders that were Eagle Scouts themselves and wouldn’t touch what we were actually there for. So I have a distrust of scouting. If the assigned leaders have no interest in motivating the boys to accomplish anything they are totally useless. So for me scouting is out. It’s not something that has been large enough to have the entire nation identify it as a Rite of Passage anyway.

So, here we are again.

History has seen the Spartans, you spent from the time you were a boy training for manhood. At the age of 18 you were inducted into the army and were now a man. Well, that doesn’t work for us because we have a voluntary military.

The Vikings were another one. You were allowed to go on raiding missions at the point of manhood.

Our culture is producing an ever increasingly soft group of older boys. Notice I did not call them men. I meant it that way. In the wake of not having something set in stone our inner city boys are seeking our a right of passage on their own. Many look to the gangs because there is something to accomplish to be inducted. Then they are a part of something. It’s not something good but it’s something for them to grasp on to.

Not having a Rite of Passage leaves us with a gaping hole in our culture. One I would like a solution to. I think it has to start in our own families. Fathers must find a way to pass manhood on to his own boys and eventually it will spread into the community and groups will form on their own. Groups that agree with a specific rite or ritual and becoming a man will have meaning again. I haven’t figured out what that solution is for my sons yet. I would love to hear ideas from all of you.

8 thoughts on “Letting Down Our Young Men

  1. with my son, Scouting did work like its supposed to, he learned what scouting is supposed to teach and did earn and was awarded his Eagle. graduation was the next best and working a job for pay was the only other thing.
    All to often, the “rite of passage” for todays kids is sex. I don’t see much else out there.

  2. I do think Scouting can work if it is taken for what it’s meant to be. Being originally designed to prepare boys for military service it is now never mentioned as such. Leaders rarely take things seriously. It’s really gone down hill as an organization. Most parents, around here, would have a come apart if you took scouting for what it was meant to be.

  3. In the modern age I think there are plenty of rites of passage.

    A driver’s license for example. Many view it as a given, or a some sort of entitlement. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Make them earn it. Then, make them earn being able to take the car out on their own. To a young person that is huge. Their world instantly gets infinitely bigger.

    Loss of virginity is a big one. You might think that there’s nothing you can do about that, but if you do, that sorry brother… that’s a parenting fail. As a father, you teach your sons how to respect women and how to be a man. Loss of virginity is certainly a rite of passage in that respect; a confirmation that a boy in now a man. With a proper father figure to teach him how to be a man, it happens at the right time, the right way.

    How about first legal alcohol? Certainly a rite of passage. And with a proper father figure, a boy learns moderation and self control.

    First gun he’s allowed to keep in his room (a-la “own”) maybe? A signal of responsibility.

    The lifting of a curfew must be counted among rites of passage. Just like the car, it signals to a young man that he is now trusted to conduct himself without supervision. Add this to the car, and this is a big one.

    And of course, moving out and his first apartment. I can’t stress this one enough. I’m of the opinion that all parents need to start actively shoving young adults right out the door one second after the 18th birthday bell rings. Right away. The sooner they get out into the world, the better. Every day that goes by and they still live at home is a day spent not growing up and not becoming independent.

    First job, first paycheck, first promotion… on and on.

    These are just a few. I get the feeling that you’re looking for an all-encompassing milestone whereby a boy in a single moment becomes a man after a ritual of some sort. That just doesn’t happen in this day and age. We combine many rites of passage to build well-rounded men from boys. And if we’re doing it right, they go on to build well-rounded men of their own.

    Remember that Sparta didn’t make well-rounded modern men. Sparta made only fighters and soldiers. Nothing more.

    1. I see what you’re saying T. We do have a lot of steps we go through. I guess I’m looking for something I can pass down to just my sons. Young women have their own set of circomstances leading to womanhood. Most of those are biological in nature but also go into everything you listed. Jobs, schooling, driver’s licences, and for some their first gun.

      I’m not trying to make us into a copy of the Spartans. I’m not suggesting that at all. I just meant their society had a structure meant to let a kid know that he was now a man and responsible as one.

      I guess it really has to do with both a skill set and a set of values passed down from father to son. My dad did his best but let’s face it…his father wasn’t in the picture much and his first step dad beat him with 2×4’s. All he had was the Navy to teach him how to be a man of honor and I respect him immensly for not passing down the negitive influences of his childhood. I want to take this further with my sons. Build better men than I am.

      1. Well… they have you to build them up.

        You may think that there’s a ceiling or something, or that you need something external to build a better man than yourself. But hey… last time I checked, Phil Jackson wasn’t half the player Michael Jordan was. Know what I mean? 😉

  4. I think my “rite of passage’ came at about 11 or 12 when I was deemed smart/safe enough to go hunting with my .22 alone.

  5. I think, if you’re looking to manufacture a ritual as a rite of passage then the allowance of total ownership and control of a ‘serious’ firearm isn’t a bad start. When a boy has turned the corner from requiring supervision with a weapon to being armed and counted on not only for his responsibility, but also his ability, he has largely entered the world of men. There are always fits and starts, curfew changes, groundings from a car and etc., but when it comes to ones individual weapon, if there is an infraction severe enough to warrant taking it away it is a very serious infraction indeed. You can say, you’re still a man but your behavior needs work, but if you have to disarm someone you’re in essence telling them they have failed as a person. This is why I think the bestowing of a permanent personal weapon (and ammo) to be kept and used according to ones own judgment is a good basis for the sort of rite you’re looking for.

    1. I really like that idea. You nailed it for me. I’d take it a little further, building their own home defense rifle. At that point being responsible to aid in the families security.

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