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).
(6) the Smoky Mountain Adventure (where we began the sex talk)

As this tradition takes on more life, I think it’s important to note that I don’t rely on “man trips” as the primary means of maturing and discipling my boys. We have many conversations (example). These trips are merely meant to cement discipleship in memorable experiences. Kids have a propensity to remember “moments.”

My boys know each “man trip” has three primary objectives.

  1. Set up the next season of life – what previously was a couple of discussions now centers around a letter to each boy that we read together, discuss, and becomes part of a notebook of letters.
  2. Do something scary – so you won’t draw back from anything God calls you to do because of fear.
  3. Have so much fun it doesn’t feel like learning – so it is something they will always look forward to.

Some of the key memories and lessons I learned from this trip were:

  • Be flexible. We planned to go white water rafting and planned the whole trip around the experience. After hotel reservations were made, we learned the white water park was closed because brain eating amoebas (#yikes) were found in the water. So… it became a high ropes course and zip lining adventure.
  • We added to the sense of adventure by listening to the Lord of the Rings series in audio theatre as we drove. This gave something fun to do on the road that prevented a debate about whether technological devices needed to go on the trip with us.
  • This is the trip were I introduced the “Papa’s an Idiot Letter” (because every parents needs to give their child at least one thing to keep in their sock drawer). You can read about the rationale in the previous link, but it was interesting to hear my two boy’s responses.
    • My oldest, who is a peace-keeper par excellent, said, “I don’t want to ever think you’re an idiot,” and gave me a big hug.
    • My youngest, who is a cut-to-the-chase common sense kind of kid, said, “Can I just read it now?”
    • Continuing to see each boy’s impromptu response to unexpected social interactions is an important part of learning where they are in regards to social development, parental bond, and responding to temptation.
  • The “idiot letter” was not my personal letter to them. They each received one tailored to their next season of life (6th grade and 4th grade respectively). These letters reviewed areas of character growth, spiritual development, and social challenges I have seen or foresee for them.
    • Side Note: I do think having a notebook of letters they keep in their room helped tie this conversation with previous man trip conversations.
    • Another highlight was my older son asking me to help him highlight the verses in his Bible that I commended to him in his letter.
  • Seize the moment. We had the blessing of the fire alarm going off at 2:30 am in our hotel and not being able to get back to our room until 5am. This provided a good opportunity to walk them through crisis decision making; what do you take when you only have a few moments to decide. It also became a reason to get 4am ice cream. We did catch several new Pokemon.
  • Physically I find these trips easier now that my boys are ages 12 and 9. They are willing to sleep in, so recovering from a day of ropes courses and zip lines was much easier. They also enjoy meal times more and these become more meaningful times to review what we’ve done and talk about the letters I wrote to each of them.

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.