Rites of Passage
Throughout history, people groups have honored new stages of life. Back in Genesis, we read about the big party Abraham and Sarah hosted for Isaac’s weaning. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is still a significant event in Jewish culture. Other cultures have had ceremonies ranging from haircuts to long pants, real coffee to debutant balls, each ushering in a new era of change in position.
What do we in American/Western culture do to mark off these times and celebrate with our own children?
This was a question I began asking when my children were quite small. As far as I can tell, except for things like getting a driver’s license and such, most of our events involve school graduations—but we homeschool. I’m not going to bother regularly buying or making a tiny graduation gown and mortarboard. I’m also not going to tell them they are teens now and can set their moral standards wherever they want as long as they don’t kill themselves.
So, what can we do as a family to find ways to rejoice with our children as they mature?
My own parents did something pretty intensive to mark our transition out of childhood. At the time I turned 13, my mother printed off a detailed statement of faith complete with over 200 verses. I was assigned to memorize them, and Mom would sit with me for at least an hour each afternoon going over what I was learning and keeping fresh on earlier work. At graduation time, we held an event at my grandparents’ church and invited family and friends to come listen to me recite the entire thing.
It was a huge amount of work for both me and Mom, but it did the job of helping me feel I had crossed a line into maturity, responsibility, and privilege.
For my own children, I’ve not planned anything so demanding. So far, only one of my kids has reached the teen years. Back when they were all young, I’d realized permission to access certain things would be a big part of my approach. So, we mark their 13th birthday with the right to read The Lord of the Rings. Other birthdays give access to other fun but deep books as well as other kinds of rights.
For example, like my own mom, I’ve explained to my daughter the signals clothes, hairstyles, and cosmetics put out about her. She has lots of privileges now, but we are careful to show she has not yet reached marriageable age by holding back on a few things that could mark her as an adult. As I recall, it wasn’t fun having to wait on some things as I was growing up, but when I reached the age where it was appropriate, I felt the weight of the change.
I felt like a grown-up.
I felt honored.
I felt empowered.
I felt protected.
A rite of passage can look like almost anything. Special trips, parties, or other experiences can mark memorable transitions to a new stage. Taking extra time as a parent one on one with my growing child is always a blessing. Jewelry, Bibles, or some other commemorative object can provide a tangible reminder for years.
Whatever your family does, it is worth thinking through what you can do to encourage and honor your maturing youth. We have chosen a different path from the norm. We can forge new celebrations and markers equally out of the ordinary!
“Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.” Joshua 4:7
Cheri Fields is a 2nd generation homeschooler involved in learning and teaching at home since 1982. She currently teaches her seven kids in Michigan and has found ways to include them in the online ministry God has called her to, particularly as cohosts for their family’s podcast. You can find her at https://creationscience4kids.com. She is a member of the International Association of Creation and a graduate of the Institute for Children’s Literature.