Monday, February 15, 2010

What Percy Jackson Taught Me About Letting Go

We took the boys to see Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief this weekend. I dig a message I found in this story which even its creators may not have given real thought to. At the end of the movie, once Percy has successfully completed his journey, he returns to the "camp" where other kids like him (Half Bloods: half human, half god) live and train. His mother is with him but she can't enter into the camp because she is fully human. So they stand at the entrance and she hugs him tightly; they promise to see each other soon, and then she tells him this is where he belongs now, to not worry about her. He has a destiny to fulfill and she's not going to stand in the way.

What a powerful message. Let me repeat in my own words for effect: You are becoming a man now, and that journey is more important than my own need for you. I want you to succeed in your destiny. I'm not going to stand in the way.

Much has been written and analyzed over the years about mothers and their little boys who are tied to the apron strings. We all know men-boys who never really launched into manhood and quite often there is a strong mother figure behind him refusing to let him go. In fact, our culture is drowning in a culture of youth who have no idea what it means to become an adult. We adults tsk-tsk their lack of vision and commitment. But have we helped show them HOW? or are we standing in the way?

Being the parents of three boys and often feeling dismayed about how best to help them become men, we've been doing a lot of talking and research on the topic. Various cultures hold rites of passage for young men and women. The most well known are bar mitzvahs--the Jewish celebration for an adolescent boy who has reached puberty. Some cultures observe more stringent practices, such as sending a boy into the wilderness for a vision quest. We've talked to other parents who have created their own types of passages because nothing really exists in the American culture to help our youth GROW UP.

With that in mind, Tom and I are planning a sort of Christian Bar Mitzvah for Graeme this summer when he turns 12. We are beginning now with a range of teaching tools to help prepare him. Traditionally, the Jewish culture does this at the age of 13 for boys but we felt with Graeme entering into middle school, we want to prepare him now. I discovered a book called Bar Barakah a blessing ceremony meant to empower a young person into adulthood:

If parents do nothing else on this earth regarding their children, the one thing God intended for them to do is to make sure that they are agents of God's impartation of identity and destiny to their children...Blessing is God's mechanism of settling identity and destiny in the heart. Without it, many people spend a lifetime trying to settle in their own way the internal issues of identity and destiny (Am I of any value? Do I belong? Do I have purpose?)

How many of today's teens are lost in depression, drugs, sex, crime trying to answer those very questions?

As a mother, this is especially challenging because to become a young man, my boys need to identify less with me and more with their dad. In part of the Bar Barakah ceremony, the mother and son stand together and she blesses him, then sends him to the front to his father and other men from the community where he will take his place among them. She's still his mother but she's no longer his mommy. There's a big difference. And the reality that as the mother of three boys I may have to face some loneliness as they move away from me towards manhood. I recall the scene in Percy where his mother reassures him that she'll be alright on her own. Again, his destiny is more important than her emotional drive to feel needed. The world needs him to fulfill that destiny.

I believe the world needs Graeme; bright, sensitive, loving Graeme. Have you seen this kid? I have always said you could drop him into the middle of nowhere and he would emerge with a friend, even if he couldn't speak the language. He's a friend to everyone. God's got a unique plan for him. I wouldn't want to stand in the way.

At the end of the day, my mark of success as a mom won't be how much my child loves me but how much I love him--enough not only to let him go but to be his launch pad into manhood with a smile and a "I'll be okay. You've got great things to accomplish. Now GO FOR IT!"


  1. As the mom of boys this is something I've thought a great deal about too. You have some thought provoking things in here and I'm so glad you shared them. We have a great responsibility to raise MEN who will lead in the right direction. Thanks for this.

  2. I like this idea a lot! I've also heard of other "rights of passages" where you set up specific mentors that you trust and respect for your kids and have them spend one week with them(or weekend if that's better). Each mentor would be responsible to teach them a single lesson the child would remember (ie: how to think for yourself, perseverence, patience, serving others, etc...). You would spread these "mentor visits" over the course of their 12th year. Then at the end of the year, you have a small party (perhaps on their b-day?)inviting all the mentors and re-live some of the memories they shared and lessons they learned.

    PS- I am planning to do this for Kensie someday...and you would def be on that list. :)

  3. Amber here is a lengthy quote from the book "Do HArd Thinks" by the brothers of Josh Harris-----

    Most people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don’t expect you to care. And even if you care, they don’t expect you to do anything about it. And even if you do something about it, they don’t expect it to last. We do. – Alex and Brett

    A generation stands on the brink of a "rebelution."

    A growing movement of young people is rebelling against the low expectations of today's culture by choosing to "do hard things" for the glory of God. And Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge.

    Do Hard Things is the Harris twins' revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential.

    Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life. Then they map out five powerful ways teens can respond for personal and social change.

    Written by teens for teens, Do Hard Things is packed with humorous personal anecdotes, practical examples, and stories of real-life rebelutionaries in action. This rallying cry from the heart of an already-happening teen revolution challenges a generation to lay claim to a brighter future, starting today.