My son. My first born son. He recently turned 13 and his initiation journey has begun. He is no longer that little boy with whom I'm so familiar. He is now a fine young man in his most critical stage of life. He is on his way to discovering an identity-the magnitude of which he doesn't fully understand, yet.
The coming year will bring about a dramatic change. Most things that he is so familiar with will come crashing down all around him and be reconstructed to reflect this new season. He is in the cocoon right now, but he was born to fly.
There is no cookie cutter method for this rite of passage from boyhood into manhood. Every person different, every story unique. And I believe with all my heart that every man needs this. The proof is in the epidemic mess that is all around us. Adult boys masquerading as men, leaving destruction in their path. I should know, I was one for a good portion of my life.
Here's the secret part of the story...on most days I'm terrified as hell to lead him into this. Inadequacy tries to overwhelm me. It's so tempting to go the easy route. Sit him down, hem-haw around about 'the talk', pat him on the shoulder, and tell him he's gonna be alright. Then, 'whew, glad that's over!'.
Can't do it. I won't do it. Because I know the searing pain of going it alone. Of wondering what it takes to be a man...and being convinced I don't have whatever that is. Of learning my many false narratives from the broken sources all around. And of constructing a 'survivor persona' to satisfy the needs of the beasts (the largest and meanest being the local school yard).
Don't feel sorry for me, though. I'm no longer alone in this. There is a Greater Father who extended an invitation to me. He pursues me with a relentlessness that I do not pretend to fully comprehend. He patiently instructs me in the darkness of the early morning hours. He accepts me as I am and not as I should be. He has placed a community of men around me, a loyal brotherhood. And because of that, I have hope. Though the resistance rages and the path sometimes steep, surely this story ends well.
At times it will be messy. Things won't turn out the way we expect. The broken pieces will rear their ugly heads and breathe their fiery lies. But the other times will more than make up for it. The magical times of bonding and breakthrough...laughing through tears...exposing lies...being in awe of the possibilities. Yep, the beauty is in doing this together- father and son linked arm in arm, eyes firmly fixed, committed to the end.
I love you deeply, Kole Allen Dugger. It is an honor to guide you on this path. I don't know all the twists and turns, but I am confident of the destination. I am confident because I know what was begun in you will come to pass. You are an amazing, courageous young man and I admire you so, so much. And if there's one thing I know...you have what it takes, my beloved son!