Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Coming of Age Send-Off Ceremony

Fourteen families gathered at Journeys' basecamp on Sunday, June 26th to send-off their children into the wilderness for our three-week Coming of Age experience, the first youth program launch of the summer. As the mid-day sun heated the yard, families and children sat upon opened tarps and reviewed their gear with the program mentors, radiating a mixture of excitement and nerves about the impending adventure. On these program launch days it is hard to tell who is more nervous about the adventure, the children or the adults who have been raising them.

The children's challenges are somehow expected; three weeks in the wilderness with a new community would be challenging for anyone. They must find comfort in any weather condition, hike with heavy packs, take on new responsibilities, find the confidence to speak their needs, learn how their actions affect others, and so on. But forgotten sometimes is the task that the adult must face in letting go of the child and seeing them, upon their return, as a youth.

During our Severance (or Separation) ceremony Amanda Ayling, Director of Youth Programs, speaks to the discomfort and excitement of letting her own child grow, "When my daughter was born, a friend told me that having a child is like your heart suddenly being on the outside of your body, and then it starts to walk around and venture out into the big, scary world. My daughter is only 4 years old now, and I can remember about a year ago when she started walking into the other room without me, leaving me to look around for her, all discombobulated. Now she has started to leave the house by herself, to go into the backyard and play on her swingset.

I am happy about this new independence, but also sad about it. And also scared. And I imagine that the feelings are similar for you all as parents, 10 years further down that road, as your children head off today to the woods for a three-week journey that involves some elements of the unknown. I imagine you feel pride and happiness, sorrow and fear. It is a hard thing to let go of your heart and to trust it to the universe, and I deeply honor what you are doing here today."

In three weeks this same group will gather again, everyone a little changed from the experience. We will hear excited stories of adventure, reintroduce family and new youth, and celebrate the courage it takes for all to show-up and embrace change and growth.