This year my son turns 9, half way to adulthood. This birthday is more significant than any before it, except the first one. I am officially preparing to send him off into the world. Traditionally coming of age ceremonies happen around age 12 but you don't just wake up on your 12th birthday and head to the ceremony. Preparation begins before that, sometimes well before that so that when the time comes you care ready to complete the challenges laid in front of you.
I have been thinking about this birthday since he was five. Tucking ideas in the back on my mind for how I might set up his process. We have lost many of these traditional customs, but they burn in my mind as indispensable. Nine begins his journey to 12, the first milestone. Here is what I have worked out, these are the things I want him to have accomplished by 12:
1. Choose a cause
We need people the champion change across a variety of issues. We have set off on our journey exploring all the different places he can spend his energy working towards change. At 12, I expect him to pick one and focus on it. That does not mean he can't care about other causes or be involved, just that time is limited, and one dedicated person can often do more than ten halfhearted people. There are some causes that exceptions, like feminism and global warming, but would consider those more ways of being in the world than say fighting to end the use of capital punishment.
2. Earn income
He gets an allowance. It is paid two days a month, the 15th and last day of the month. Does that sound familiar? He does not get paid for doing chores or his school work, and those things are not optional. He is paid based on how well he completes his work, efficiency, innovation, resourcefulness, creativity are all rewarded. The system is slightly complicated, but it works well for us. This isn't the income I am talking about tho. This is just practice for whatever he decides will be the best way for him to start generating income. Between his 10th and 11th birthday he has to start a business.
3. Save 300 dollars
Poor money management skills have landed me in quite the mess, and I know I am not alone. We live in a world designed to help us spend. 300 dollars isn't much to save in 4 years, but I wanted to be sure that he could reach it and hopefully quickly so we can adjust. Savings goals that are too big can feel discouraging, at least for me. I have also been researching how to expose young people to the psychological tricks used to encourage spending so he can be aware and not fall prey.
4. Host an event
Being the host teaches you a lot about planning and people. Taking on the role of designing an event, from food to a guest list, from the budget to the activities, is the modern day equivalent of walking on walking on coals. This is going to hurt a little, but the frustration will be worth it. I am sure he will learn things I can not even begin to guess, but I hope he takes away the importance of being there for people and the power of being able to create space.
5. Find a craft or two
This is similar to the first item on the list; I am not saying to has to pick one craft and close his eyes to everything else. He does need to put in the hours towards perfecting a craft so that he can watch his evolution. So far those crafts are ceramics, guitar, and coding. It's important to be that one of the final works be something that he creates with his own hands, that is a particular magic.
I made these up based on the child that I have and the character I want him to have. Life is fluid, so if you know of any interesting coming of age practices, please share. I would love to take a look.