One of the things I have found most satisfying as a parent is setting aside time each year for a memorable trip with my two sons. In previous posts I have discussed
(1) the kindergarten right of passage trip I took with my first son,
(2) a trip we took when he was especially discouraged at school,
(3) the kindergarten right of passage with my youngest son,
(4) the first before-school-starts joint trip we took as this tradition took on life, and
(5) the before-school-start joint trip we took to Texas (involving their first flight).
In this post I will reflect on the latest trip we took to the mountains of West Carolina. With each trip like this we take, my boys become more familiar with the idea; which is both an asset and liability to what we want to accomplish.
The bullets below are arranged chronologically through our trip with thoughts about what went well, what didn’t, and why we did things the way we did.
- I picked the boys up early from school and we went to try sushi. One of our goals on every “man trip” is to try new things so that fear becomes less of a reason my boys would back out of something God would call them to do. Sushi was about as scary of a food as my oldest could think of to try, so we went for it. He boldly took a bite and was content with his accomplishment.
- Then we drove to a cabin in the mountains of Northwest NC. Once we got there, we went to town to get supplies and get dinner (this time just a Mexican restaurant). When we got back we explored the woods for good fishing holes later in the trip.
- The next morning we got up and drove to Boone, NC for a day of rock climbing. We scheduled an all-day package with Rock Dimensions. It was a phenomenal experience. We spent the morning practicing on their tower in town and the afternoon climbing and repelling rock faces in the mountain. Another great time of helping my boys face something scary and seeing the fruit of facing those fears. Pictures available on my Instagram account.
- Quote of the trip – “Papa, that was scary, but a fun kind of scary,” my youngest son on repelling.
- When we got back to the cabin we explored the woods for more fishing holes. Hiking in the woods after dark is a great adventure and cultivates lots of conversations.
- The next day we slept in, which means 8am by little boy standards, and went fishing. This is when we engaged one of our other objectives; having important conversations. With my oldest going into 5th grade, we began the conversation about sex.
- Since my sons are very close friends, it didn’t seem wise to talk with one and not the other. It is likely too much would get “lost in translation.”
- I began with an open-ended question, “Have your friends at school talked about sex?” I was curious to know what he knew, or thought he knew.
- We engaged the subject socially. “Your friends are likely to start talking about sex and I didn’t want you to feel like there were important things you didn’t know.”
- We talked about key terminology. We talked about the right names for male anatomy, female anatomy, what a virgin is, and the experience of a wet dream. Most of these were framed in terms of embarrassing questions a friend might try to catch them in (i.e., “Are you a virgin?”) and make fun of their answer either way. I helped them understand how to navigate those social situations and let them know they could ask us about any words they didn’t know what they meant.
- We talked about biology. We talked about sperm, eggs, and DNA. DNA may have been the only part of the conversation that wasn’t awkward for them. They liked learning how they got traits from both Sallie and I, and mentioned this part of the conversation several times on the rest of the trip.
- We talked about theology. We talked about how God made sex as a gift for husbands and wives in marriage and as a way to produce babies.
- We didn’t talk about the activity of sex in much detail. This wasn’t needed or age appropriate. Creating the mental image of the physical act would, in my opinion, be pre-mature. The previous points are sufficient for them to understand the physiological changes they’ll begin to experience and navigate the social contexts they’ll find themselves in. My goal was to equip them for the next season of their life; not to educate them to pass a test on sex ed.
- We left the conversation open-ended. The main take-aways I wanted my boys to have were: (a) we can talk with Mama or Papa if we have questions about sex, (b) they are expecting the topic of sex to come up socially, and (c) we have enough vocabulary to put our questions into words.
- After fishing we went back to the cabin, had lunch, and then decided to wade the stream (since the fish weren’t biting; we only caught two). For the next three hours we walked several miles up and down the mountain stream. It was extremely cold and fun. We chased many more fish than we caught. By the end we were falling-over-tired and the current of the stream didn’t help.
- We got dinner at the same restaurant since the boys liked it and did some more fishing that evening before finding some new rocks to climb. This time was intentionally very free to “play” together in whatever ways caught their interest. A highlight was my oldest slipping and falling face-first in a creek. They both laughed about it all night long. We slept very well that night.
- The next morning we packed up the cabin, carved some decayed mountain wood with the pocket knives I have them as a gift, and headed home. It is our tradition to stop at Applebee’s (my youngest’s favorite restaurant) on the way home and review the whole trip. This is a chance to help them review the experience and help cement the memories.
- One of the side benefits of these trips is that it gives me wife a few days fully “off duty.” She gets a quiet house, with no one to clean up after or cook for, and the opportunity to do whatever she wants. So the “man trip” is not just fun for the boys.
This is a tradition that I would commend to any parent, but especially fathers. The value of getting 72 uninterrupted hours with my boys is something that is hard to put into words. Both the quality of bond and type of understanding I gain from this time is different from having dinner together, coaching their sports teams, or playing in the back yard. These moments create memories I will always cherish and, I hope, cement life lessons my boys will never forget.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Parenting” post which address other facets of this subject.