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“Uhm…. isn’t that dangerous? I mean he might get hurt.” That was my well-meaning, dream-stealing neighbor whose idea of adventure is getting a Venti coffee instead of a Grande at Starbucks.
“Hell yes it’s dangerous, but not as dangerous as your kid wasting away playing Fortnight or staring at an iPhone for hours on end!” (Yes, I said it in a pissed off way!)
Here’s the thing. I’m building a man - not a passive wimp. Men get hurt. They take risks. They screw up. They overcome.
I don’t want to tell my neighbor what I really think about his passive, neutered lifestyle or how his kids are monsters. Mainly because I don’t want him to report me to Child Protective Services.
William, often referred to as "the boy" by myself, is my boy! He’s 6 years old, and I’ve got three goals for him before he leaves my house.
So what does this have to do with an Alaskan moose hunt?
I guided hunts and adventures for more than 16 years before moving to Nashville to run Groove. The last two years have been amazing. It’s a new chapter, but I’ve been missing the adventure.
I got the text from my buddy in April. “Come up and let's go moose hunting this fall.” Oh man, my heart jumped. The motherland calls!
In all the planning, scheming, and getting permission from the boss (my wife, Katie), I struggled with a thought.
Should I take the boy? I really wanted to escape all of life’s cares and go alone on this adventure. I earned it, right? “Taking William would be a humongous pain,” I told my wife. “There will be crying, naps, whining, extra snack times, and even some homework.” (The whining would be from me.)
But I was really conflicted. I have goals for my kids. I have a responsibility to equip them for life.
Now William is about as good as he can be at 6. He’s an adventure junkie and has been driving boats, shooting guns, hiking, and fishing since before he could read. (He caught a nice Northern Pike when he was three all by himself.)
Bringing him would pretty much mean I’d have to be “On” full time. But if I wanted him to grow up to be a man, I knew he needed what this trip would offer.
Excitement. Uncertainty. Danger. Being uncomfortable. Boredom (no devices allowed). Hard work. Adventure. Fear. Problems to be solved. Connecting with nature. Harvesting. Cleaning and eating an animal from the wild.
I have this fear of failing as a father. I suppose it comes from looking around at a generation or two of fatherless kids and the passive, bored adults they’ve become. I vowed pretty early that my kids would be different. I pray about it a lot.
I asked him what he thought about going with me to hunt for moose, and he about exploded with excitement. I was in now, like it or not.
We landed in Anchorage and promptly flew out in my friend’s Cessna 180, a 4- seater bush plane. The next 9 days were heaven for me. No cell phones. No screens. No schedule. We hunted every morning and night, with some naps in-between.
If you’ve never been, let me tell you, moose hunting in remote Alaska is an adventure. When these 1500-pound beasts are in breeding season, calling, tracking, and harvesting is an amazing adrenaline rush.
Stalking moose with a 6-year-old in tow is no small feat. They can hear like no other animal. Their huge antlers act as funnels to their 12-inch ears. Luckily, we were in a great area with plenty of moose. And being 150 miles from the nearest road puts these animals at ease year-round.
The boy crushed it. He woke up early every day, slid on his hunting boots and jacket, and grabbed his .22 long rifle. He patiently followed me over mountains, through bogs, and across streams - even in pouring, cold rain.
Sure, he complained, cried, got hurt, and got angry, but he persevered.
Why would a 6-year-old do this? Why would he want to? He did it because I was doing it. I am like God to him at this age and I was calling him up to manhood and he knew it…. maybe unconsciously but he knew it.
I’ve never seen him come alive like he did during those 9 days. We flew airplanes, drove ATV’s, hiked miles and miles, started fires, killed squirrels and ate them, swam in a freezing lake, made a fort in the forest, played cards, wrestled, sawed down trees, dammed a creek for fun, skipped rocks, and harvested and butchered a huge moose. We even chased a howling wolf up a mountain.
The boy was taking his first steps to manhood.
A side benefit of taking the boy to hunting camp was being around other men. He’s used to nagging and discipline from his dad. On this trip, Jeff the 6’5”, 60year-old, hardened, grizzly-bearded, camp cook did it.
“Knock it off boy,” boomed Jeff.
He was sternly telling William to suck it up and stop whining.
William shot a look at me as if to ask, “Can he say that to me?” I answered, “You heard him William. You better obey or Jeff will whip your butt.” Now I probably wouldn’t have let Jeff spank William, and Jeff wouldn’t want to but William didn’t know that. His eyes stayed wide and glued on Jeff for a solid 15 seconds.
It was perfect!
William wasn’t just learning the ropes from me, but from the other men in camp. They were all good men and I trusted them not to overstep their bounds. Having other adults reinforcing your rules and your values is paramount!!!!!
Sadly, I don't feel like it is well received by most parents these days. I am quite the opposite. I told all the men, in front of the boy, that if he got out of line they were free to correct. It was good for William to know there was a common standard and he was required to obey it.
Yes. And no. I probably would’ve had more fun just focusing on myself. There will be trips where it’s just myself, or just my wife and me. Those are important. But to see my son mature, grow, and come alive was absolutely priceless.
I think it’s important to include my kids in situations where they’re NOT the center of attention.
Situations where they “tag along” on my journey or my adventure and learn to support. My kids need to be caught up in something bigger than themselves. Your kids, or future kids, are the same way. Invite them in!
Left unchecked, our selfish nature will ruin us. Deep down we all want to get caught up in a bigger story, drama, war, or cause bigger than ourselves. It’s not just about me. It’s not just about you.
That’s why so many men are addicted to watching sports. We want to be the character on a mission with others, and we want to win the game or the girl. (For women, the need is met by drama in the form of books, social media, or TV.)
Kids are the same way. As a parent, I want to invite them into my story and not let them fall into someone else’s, either real or fantasy. (Think social media or video games.)
Go live a story so you can invite them along. It doesn’t matter what it is or how exciting or boring it is. What matters is that you invite them into it.
I know a family that is crazy about ping pong. They all love it and play tournaments. It may sound funny to some but it’s perfect. It’s a common goal and it brings the family together.
I met a guy last night who had an interest in falconry! His story was incredible! He just started researching and began the process of getting licensed. He captured his first Red Tailed Hawk a few months later and trained it. The best thing is that his kids are highly involved and they spend loads of time together. Oh and he lives in a neighborhood so there goes that excuse, if you were thinking it.
It doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is that they help you in setting a goal, and participate in the struggling, failing, conquering, and achieving process.
If you have kids, you probably feel pretty ill-equipped. I talk to men all the time who aren’t sure they could take their kids to do “MANLY” things. Maybe they didn’t have a dad. Or more often than not, their own father didn’t invite them into their stories.
Here’s one thing I’m 100% sure of. Your kids don’t know you don’t know, at least at an early age. More importantly, they don’t care one way or the other. They just want to be with you.
It’s good for your kids to see you struggle or not know exactly what to do. They’ll learn how you overcome and copy you when they face their own challenges.
So you don’t know how to fish, hunt or work on cars? Great! Learn with them. Youtube anything you want to do, figure it out and lead them. As someone once told me, “An expert is someone who knows 10% more than you do”.
Let me close by saying that I definitely don’t have it all together. I’m failing forward as a husband, father, and in business. I love my family and I’m dead-set on getting it right and leaving a legacy for my kids to follow. It might be messy, but I’ll get there. You will too.
Thanks for reading guys! What do you guys do with your kids to connect? I would love to know!
If you don't know but want to, the time is now. Just start researching.
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