Before I got married, I was pretty much clueless about boys. I grew up with one sister and all female cousins except for one. Sure, I had lots of male friends growing up, but I just didn’t get them. Why did they smell like that? Why did they think those sounds were hilarious? Why didn’t they emote as much as I wanted them to? So, so many questions.
Needless to say, when I was the first person on my dad’s side of the family to have a boy in 60 years, I was a tiny bit unprepared.
Alas, I soon embraced overalls and skinned knees, Thomas the Train and Legos. “I can do this boy mom thing!” I thought. Little boys love their mamas something fierce, and I was happy to be on the receiving end of all that lovin’.
But now we’re in the teen years, and things are a little bit more, well, complicated. I mean, I’m well-versed in the drama that’s to come when my daughters hit 13 (Lord, hold us all), but teen boy aggression? Restlessness? Anger? I don’t really get it. How do I escort my son into manhood when I have no idea what that transition feels like?
Jazz hands for my husband. Not only does he attempt (and I do say attempt) to educate me into the mind and behaviors of teenage boys, but he really owns the task of thoughtfully and purposefully equipping my son for the road ahead.
One example: A 5,000th day celebration.
I want to share this idea with you for two reasons:
- I think it’s a great idea. Feel free to copy if you’d like! (I promise, no crafts or decorations are involved.)
- You just might need some encouragement. On the heels of a year marked by conflict and division; when it’s so easy to be discouraged by too many examples of grown-ups acting like children, here are our humble efforts to encourage our son to be a godly, honorable man. We can’t control the masses, but we can challenge and equip those with whom we’ve been entrusted, to the very best of our imperfect ability, and believe it will make a difference in this dark, broken, beautiful place.
So, what does a 5,000th Day Celebration look like?
We invited a small group of men we respected, men who are wise and kind. Who are humbly committed to following Jesus. Who know they don’t have all the answers, but who lean in and listen. Who love and respect their wives and treasure their children. Who model servant leadership.
These men, and Joshua, listened as Brian read out “The Story of Josh,” a sketch of his temperament, passions, and character, accompanied by embarrassing childhood photos rolling in the background, because you have to. Brian then spoke about faith, hope and love, the greatest qualities you can run towards when you turn that tricky corner between adolescence and adulthood and say goodbye to childish ways. He referenced the fact that when Christ’s love is a man’s motivation and destination, it’s funny how these qualities rise to the top: Hard work. Service. Self-control. Courage. Discipline. Empathy. Purpose. Wisdom. Perseverance. Humility. Kindness.
Imagine the difference it would make if more people were defined by these words.
The men in attendance each encouraged Joshua with things they have learned in their journeys to be who God has called them to be, and they didn’t shy away from sharing their missteps, their regrets. They exhorted him to love deeply, to not believe the lie that men aren’t allowed to feel. They instructed him to live only for God’s approval and not for the applause of the world. They said, “We’ve been there. We know it’s hard. We’re with you; you won’t have to do this alone.” They prayed for him, asking God to protect him and to give him the courage to live boldly and love fiercely, for God’s glory and the good of others.
And then they ate brownies, because after all, he’s just 13.
You all need to know something. We blow it all the time with this kid. I don’t share this experience with you so that you’ll think, “Wow, the Phillips are Super Parents,” because as much as I’d like to believe that’s true, it’s not. We’re not. I could simmer in the Sea of Parenting Regret for days on end over the mistakes we’ve made with this boy.
But God is gracious. And sometimes, He gives you a really fun idea.
You don’t have to do a 5,000th day “Coming of Age” celebration with your child. That would be awesome if you did, but that’s not really the point. Instead, what if we all committed to, in our own ways, calling our no-longer-children-but-not-quite-adult offspring to greater maturity and deeper faith, to risk-taking for the sake of the Greatest Love, to sweaty brows and doing hard things? What if in these years where so many good-meaning, weary parents tap out from exhaustion and frustration, we pressed on and raised the bar for them to pursue not just greatness in the form of trophies and scholarships, but in character, wisdom, and strength?
This is hard work, I realize. And we are tired. I know this. But the world is in desperate need of mature men and women who’ve been equipped to light the darkness.
Are you in?
Happy 5,000 Days, Josh. Keep going—further up and further in. This is what you were made for. We’ll be running right beside you.