October 7, 2019
13 is a milestone birthday
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.
Creating a birthday rite of passage
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.
Marking Out The Birthday Path
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.
What he found along the path:
His brother, explaining why popcorn describes 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 the world.
His cousin telling him what a great example he is in his life. He made him a walking stick.
His Gigi explaining the importance & legacy of family.
And me, his auntie, reminding him to stand on a firm foundation through the shifting teen years.
His mom prayed over him, and spoke words of life as he walked down the final stretch of the trail.
He arrived at the bridge to find us all waiting. 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.
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This post was originally published in 2012, since then we’ve done this tradition with every child in the family, adjusting it to meet the specific personality of each one. See the additions below.
Variations of this Birthday Tradition:
Time of year for birthdays make a difference! To see our ski/winter version of this click here. Or pin the image to save for later.
We also did a book version for Dawson’s birthday. Everyone gave him a book that has been impactful in their life, or their favorite pick. They wrote on the covers to him. As he walked he collected the books in his backpack.
Because Dawson is a reader, this was a perfect adaptation for this tradition for him.