Think about your child as she is about to graduate from high school. What do you want her to be like? What will her values be? What kind of skills will she have? Will she be ready to tackle the world?
Last October I met a teen who blew my mind. I started talking to her at a camp I was attending. She was there as Staff for the roughly 8 – 13 year olds. At dinner, I asked her if she knew where she was headed. She told me she was really into music (what teen isn’t?) and that she would love to study it more in-depth. I could not have predicted what came next.
“I’m really interested in native music and drumming rhythms. I’m planning a trip to South America this summer. I’m already fundraising for it on GoFundMe, and I’m giving people things like music lessons or a song written just for them or a souvenir and stuff like that.”
I asked her some questions, and she told me lots more detail, but I was only half listening. I was thinking about myself as a 17 year old.
I had no idea who I was, or what my gifts were, or what I could give back to the world. I certainly didn’t know how to plan a month-long solo trip to ANOTHER CONTINENT. Where did she get such passion? Where had she learned such confidence? (At 17 I couldn’t even walk up to the counter at McDonald’s and order food; I always pretended I had to go to the bathroom and made my sister order for me. For real!)
Turns out she’s the daughter of Mark Morey, who created and led our camp. For 3 decades, Mark has been using the skills of nature immersion to help people get to know themselves better, connect with nature, and combat the disconnection that is so prevalent in our world.
In one of our fireside chats, Mark mentioned that his years of practice of observing nature made him a good observer of children. My ears perked up, since that’s a strong part of how I approach parenting. He said when his daughter was around 7 he began to notice she was going through a shift, moving out of the dependency of early childhood and actively expressing the desire to contribute to the functioning of the family.
So he created a ceremony to celebrate this important transition, which he calls the Rite of Competence. The ceremony helped celebrate his daughter’s developing abilities, gifts, and talents and fostered resilience in her by giving her a rich, supportive experience which she could recall when faced with the challenges of stepping into more responsibility.
It also built deeper connections with an “extended family”, and gave his whole family a “road-map” of how to navigate not only this mid-childhood transition but also the upcoming teenage years.
Since then, Mark has gone on to lead over 65 families in creating their own Childhood Rites of Competence. My daughter is only 3, so while I’m not planning on joining the next cohort of families (it starts January 29!), I’m already looking forward to taking his class in a few years.
And when my daughter turns 17? Well, I can’t wait to see what life-changing adventure she’ll be embarking on.
Your turn: What were you like as a 17-year old? Do you feel like you are equipping your child to be a resilient, confident, capable adult? What support do you need to accomplish this? Tell us in the comments.