Turning 13: A Meaningful Way to Celebrate a Son


13 is a milestone birthday – a huge deal for all involved.  Both child and parents will come face to face with new realities.  The climb up the mountain of the teen years requires new equipment, endurance, a route map, and a team.  There are obstacles ahead, but there are also breathtaking vistas along the way.  In fact, they will probably happen simultaneously.

The birthday marks the beginning.

It’s base camp.

Base camp is where climbers prepare for their journey.  Here supplies are stocked, packs are prepared, and the warm security of safety is found.  As my sister and I talked about what to do for my nephew Caleb’s 13th, we wanted to create something memorable.  Something to fill his pack, and an experience he could look back on when the climb gets tough;  Something that helps him to remember that base camp awaits him, no matter where he goes, no matter what his journey.

We heard about a rite of passage ritual of a son going on a path where he meets men of wisdom along that way who give him advice.  We decided to use that concept, but change it so that family would be the ones on the path, and with the goal of telling him something that sets him apart as unique and special.  It would also be an opportunity for the adults in his life to share some of their wisdom..

On his birthday, my sister explained that he would walk from our lake cabin, down to the creek where we always go.  He was told that people would meet him along that way, and that they would each walk him to the next person.  After everyone was in their place, his dad gave him a bag, and sent him to walk his road.

Here is what he found:

His brother, explaining why popcorn was representative of him.

His Boppa giving him advice and wisdom about money.

His uncle, and cousin, telling him they think he is 5 star!

His great aunt telling him how special he is in this world.

His cousin telling him what a great example he is in his life

His Gigi explaining the importance &  legacy of family.

His auntie reminding him to stand on a firm foundation through the shifting teen years.

His mom, praying over him, and speaking words of life…

As he walked the last path to the river, we all awaited him at the bridge.

We prayed over him and asked God to walk with him closely, and we thanked Him for giving us the gift of C.A.L.E.B.

Caleb climbed Mt.Adams for his 13th with his dad.   We know this will be the first of many climbs for him, both figurative and literal.  But no matter where he ventures, this base camp crew will be cheering, preparing his pack, and helping map his route.


38 comments… add one
  • Kendra Grabowski October 7, 2012, 7:39 pm

    Thanks so much Kris for documenting this milestone. It was so awesome and reading it made me cry all over again. I am so grateful for our family!

  • peggy November 4, 2012, 4:25 pm

    amazing! wish I would have seen this before my son’s 13th!!!

    • Krista November 4, 2012, 4:39 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Peggy! You could still do it…. maybe for your son’s 16th?? Blessings to you in all that you do!

  • Alison January 7, 2013, 6:44 am

    Beautifully documented for Caleb and your family, but thank you for also sharing it with all of us. It is inspirational.

    • Krista January 8, 2013, 11:26 pm

      Thank you Alison. You are always such an encourager! I really, really appreciate your comments. Praying you and your family are thriving this 2013!!!! XOXO

  • Joshua Vang April 12, 2013, 1:45 am

    What an amazing gift this is! So special and personal. Thanks for sharing!

    • Krista April 26, 2013, 10:25 pm

      You bet Joshua! Blessings to you!

  • Hester Christensen May 16, 2013, 2:48 pm


    This sounds so similar to what we did for our son’s 13th – my husband planned a special ‘manhood’ celebration where specific individuals spoke truth over him (with similar objects lessons) – it was really awesome — one he will never forget. It was funny, b/c Kendra and I chatted about this last Nov. and realized we both did something similar for our boys. 😉

    Awesome! God bless your week, Love, Hester 😉

    • Krista May 17, 2013, 6:19 am

      I’d love to see your pics and hear your ideas, Hester! Thanks for weighing in on this. Love to you!!

  • Gweynn May 16, 2013, 4:11 pm

    Completely amazing, had me crying!! Thanks for the great ideas! Bless you CALEB!

    • Krista May 17, 2013, 6:18 am

      Thanks Gweynn! Yes, it was very fun and meaningful. Bless YOU and yours!!!

  • Rachel June 25, 2013, 1:16 am

    This is so beautiful. My son turns 13 in two weeks and we have things rolling to make this happen. What was the book that you read? Did you come up with the ideas for each person to talk about? Or did they do it on their own? Thank you for sharing this. We are so excited.

    • Krista July 19, 2013, 6:00 am

      I’m realizing your son’s bday is probably past Rachel! How did it go? We came up with our own ideas, and the main idea of it ourselves. What did you end up doing? I’d love to hear!

  • Ro Lewis October 3, 2015, 1:41 pm

    I just prayed this morning and asked God what to do for my son’s 13th bday and I have found it!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing

    • kristagilly October 5, 2015, 4:28 am

      I am so glad!!! It is so very meaningful… we’ve done it several times now with the kids in our family. I pray it will be such a blessing for you all!

  • Mike July 3, 2017, 11:26 pm

    This is great. Thanks. I’ve just prayed about what to do for my son – we’re in the UK – and found this – very inspiring. I’m contacting various relatives, youth pastor, friends, to ask them to join in. Thanks so much for posting this even though it’s a few years back for you now.

    • Krista September 28, 2017, 2:53 pm

      How did it go Mike?! We continue to do this with subsequent kids and it is just as powerful with each one! Blessings!

  • Toni Willis January 16, 2018, 3:33 am

    I love this idea! My son is turning 13 in one month and I want to do something meaningful for him to carry with him. I am so inspired by this blog post. Our family is small but we have a loving community around us that could drop pearls of wisdom for him on his journey into manhood. Blessings to you and your family and thank you for sharing.

    • Krista January 30, 2018, 10:21 pm

      Hi Toni – thank you and I’m so glad you are doing something special with family AND friends. It really does matter! Blessings on you and your son.

  • Gloria May 13, 2018, 2:24 am

    I love this!!
    Thank You for sharing!!!
    I realize your son must be 18 now?!
    All the best to him and you.

    • Krista May 14, 2018, 6:28 am

      Thank you – what a sweet comment Gloria! I wish you the best as you celebrate your son 🙂

  • Salini February 5, 2019, 5:27 pm

    Hi Krista
    Thank you for sharing your story,my son is turning 13 on Feb 14th, and would love to do something similar to bring in that sense of manhood. Your story got me teary eyed.Much love♥

    • Krista March 1, 2019, 7:37 pm

      Thank you Salini! I would love to hear back if you end up doing it.

  • Hannah February 6, 2019, 2:30 am

    I’m searching for a special way to celebrate my son’s 13th birthday at the end of this year. His Dad passed away in December and this will be his first birthday without him. This is beautiful…thinking now of how to modify it for a late November birthday in Vermont! Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Krista March 1, 2019, 7:37 pm

      I am so sorry Hannah. That must be so hard. Way to step in that gap and make it special for him. I would LOVE to see this done in Vermont. Take pictures and share them with me 🙂 We’ve done this in the snow and it’s really fun.

  • Tierra March 1, 2019, 8:27 pm

    I LOVE this idea. My son doesnt turn 13 until 2020 but this is something that I would totally do. I would also try to incorporate something from his Grandmother and uncle who meant everything to him but have passed away. I think that he would forever remember and cherish a moment such as this. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • Krista March 6, 2019, 8:18 pm

      Hi Tierra – I REALLY love that idea of honoring and bringing in those loved ones who have passed away. What a special and meaningful add to this idea. Thank you for sharing and I’m excited for you to do it xoxo

  • Caleb Grabowski March 3, 2019, 7:15 am

    lol, Gabe and I just looked back at this!!!

    • Krista March 8, 2019, 11:18 pm

      you are the cutest E-V-E-R!!!!!!!

  • Andrea August 8, 2019, 4:46 pm

    I never leave comments on blogs, but I was moved to TEARS, I mean literal crocodile tears as I read this. What a wonderful, impactful, thoughtful, caring way to show and tell your son who he is to his family, friends and to the world. Congrats and this was awesome. I know he is noooooow an adult, but this was oh so amazing. God is Awesome. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Krista August 14, 2019, 6:04 am

      Oh my goodness THANK YOU Andrea! That means so much. It’s been a very important tradition to our family – every child crossing the teen threshold has done it. Thank you for taking the time to encourage us!

  • Tori G January 22, 2020, 2:40 pm

    My son will be turning 13 in June so Ive been searching for something special to do for him. He mentioned he wanted a Bar mitz vah but…were not Jewish. This is PERFECT. My eyeballs are sweating!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Krista January 25, 2020, 8:51 pm

      Oh I’m so glad Tori! Yes, I think barmitzvah’s are such an incredible experience for young people, and this is my version I guess 😉 Let me know how it goes!

  • Des February 21, 2020, 4:53 pm

    And his mom prayed over him,this part made me cry. I pray over mine daily,and I never thought to pray over them on their birthdays. Wonderful inspiration! Thankyou for sharing!

    • Krista February 24, 2020, 4:58 am

      Oh that is so heart warming! Thanks for reaching out to let me know. I’m sure it was so special! Blessings on all of you. xo

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