A letter to my almost 16-year-old son for him to open as he goes on a 9-day adventure with Outward Bound in the Pisgah National Forest in the Linville Gorge area of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

First, he did NOT want to go.

He wanted to attend a basketball camp or perhaps, on the off chance I had lost my mind, a video game camp!

How had his interests gotten so whittled down and myopic?

I sent him on this instead because I wanted him to remember how much more there is to life than basketball and video games. Those are not bad things per se BUT there is so much more out there! And there is so much more to him than he even knows. As he approaches manhood, I wanted him to know this truth in a profound way.

Dear Jaden,

I am so proud of you for taking this leap of faith to majorly leave your comfort zone, especially when you feel uncomfortable, unsure, and anxious.

I know what strength, courage and bravery going on this trip has required of you! But please know, I wouldn’t send you someplace that I didn’t already know you could not only handle it but that you can conquer it!

I heard you say loud and clear that you don’t want to hear me say “I told you so” if you come back feeling like it was a fantastic adventure and something you are actually proud of having done! And I promise you here in writing I won’t. Ever.

It hasn’t been about being right or “I told you so”, it’s been about giving you something to cut your burgeoning manhood on, a rite of passage so to speak.

Even though I am not a male, I do know that the difference between a man with a vision who wants to make a positive mark on his world and one who is aimless with no plan for the future is immeasurable.

The aim of a rite of passage is to bring out the potential in young men and have them full of inspiration as they look to the future.

The shift from boy to man psychology is not one that occurs naturally. The difference in the two is so fundamental that a significant event is required for it to happen. That’s what I wish for you on this trip.

There are 3 stages of a Rite of Passage:

  • Separation (you’re going alone-no friends or family)
  • Transition (you will be taught new knowledge to become a member of a new group, plus bravery and endurance are required)
  • Re-incorporation (recognizing and honoring what you went through when you return)

Boy mentality:

  • I seek acknowledgment
  • I want it all for me
  • Power is for my benefit
  • I am the center of the Universe
  • I believe I am immortal
  • I take no responsibility for my actions
  • I want a mother

Healthy Man Mentality

  • I seek that which I believe in
  • I share with my community
  • Power is for the good of all
  • I am just a part of the Universe
  • I know I am mortal
  • I take full responsibility for my actions
  • I want a relationship with a woman (or someone other than mother)

You might have already put this letter down but if you haven’t, know that I love you deeply. I don’t need you to become a great man for me, son, like I don’t need you to make good grades for me, or treat your sister with more kindness for me, or go to church with me, or do the dishes for me. Yes, I feel pride, joy and even gratitude when you do these things, but when the day is done and when my life is over, I want to know that you have chosen a walk that brings you meaning and dignity. In other words, I want you to flourish.

Plain and simple.

Upon your return, I imagine you will still love video games, you will still forget to practice gratitude, you will choose the easy way on occasion, forget to turn off your lights in your room and still be on the human journey of male adolescence, as you should be.

But I also wish for you that you know maybe a little bit more about the man you might choose to grow into. One of integrity—your words and actions match, one of strength—you endure when things get tough, one of empowerment—you take responsibility for your actions, and one of gratitude—you can find joy in simple and natural things!

I believe in you. You are one of my greatest teachers. Yes, you really are. I’m still learning and you will be, too, for years to come if we’re lucky. I am privileged to be your mom and look forward to sharing this next phase of your journey with even more ease, laughter and joy. You are going to be a man no matter what. That bell has already been run

g. But choosing to be a great one, that’s entirely up to you.

I love you with all my heart, son!