Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Finding the right rite

I give up on Wordless Wednesdays. I suppose they have their place. Just not in my blog.

And besides, these pictures need some explanation.

For example, I am totally enjoying my role as Kitchen Supervisor this week, rather than my usual role of Chief Cooking Officer.

And please do not think that we eat like this when I am in charge of the kitchen. My hands have never produced anything that could also be called Heart Attack on a Plate.

But I am very proud of my previously culinary-challenged eldest child. Admittedly he is only in the kitchen this week because it is a family requirement before receiving his permit and he realized on Sunday evening that he is now T-minus 2 weeks and counting. And the good news? After Day 2 of the required cooking he looked at me oh so lovingly and exclaimed, "I'm enjoying this week more than I thought I would." Of course he was also chowing down on his latest kitchen cuisine which was full of real meat (as my children say because I don't always give them "real" meat) and goes by the title of Apple-Stuffed Pork Loin Roast which he found himself by googling the blessed pork loin (or loins as he prefers to call them, but that's a family joke so you wouldn't get it). I guess real meat will do that to you. As will realizing that if you don't get your own butt in gear, your 16th birthday will come and go and you won't have that precious piece of bragging rights in your own wallet.

What, you ask, are all these requirements about? Does the state of Pennsylvania now require students to cook before they can apply for a learner's permit? Not a bad idea, but no, it's just part of a list of requirements that every fortunate member of the King family will need to complete before being driven to that hallowed hall of driving bliss. Where did this idea come from, you ask? The simple answer? Us! The long answer? Read on.

I honestly am not sure where the idea came from but I think it originated with our reading the book, Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis. Our boys were very young at the time but we were struck by Lewis' premise, that boys (and girls - see his more recent book, Raising a Modern-Day Princess) in modern American culture have no idea when or how they go from child to adult, boy to man, girl to woman. For John, it has become the foundation of his doctoral dissertation. If you want the scientific version you'll have to ask him. But I can give you the simplified version which didn't cost us as much money to get and won't take as long to write (or read).

So we were on a quest to determine how we wanted to flesh this out with our own children. It is a work in progress but began with an unwritten (until now) goal of raising each child to:
A. Love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind and to likewise love and serve others
B. Become an independent, thinking, responsible adult
C. Be able to live in, work in, and relate to the larger culture; being the influencer, rather than to be influenced

As a next step we asked ourselves the question: What milestones do we want to see at different ages of maturity, to know that our children are on their way to fulfilling these goals? We actually spent a date night writing down a list for each of the following ages: 5, 10, 13, 16, 19/High school graduation, and 21/College graduation. These skills include age-appropriate chores, spiritual milestones, self-care, career exploration, finances, etc.

From that list, then, and from the ideas in Lewis' book about purposefully planning rites of passage, we came up with the following rites of passage:

At age 13, the child goes away for the weekend with the same-sex parent, the same-sex grandparent, and a mentor. During the weekend, the child listens to the adults flesh out the passage from 1 Timothy 4:12 (Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.) and receives a symbol of purity. For the boys, they each received a watch with the following inscription on the back: God's timing is perfect. For Mariana, whose 13th birthday is coming up, she will receive a ring or necklace. Of course the weekend is also filled with many light-hearted moments such as going to see a movie, eating dinner out, going to a sporting event, or even Cirque du Soleil! The idea is to bless the child, to impart wisdom, and to expect a new level of maturity. (Side note: Age 13 may seem a little young for a purity pledge but we decided 15 or 16 seemed too late)

At age 15, Mom and Dad take the birthday child out to dinner and present him or her with a list of requirements that need to be fulfilled in the following year, all before getting that coveted driver's permit (highly motivational, to say the least). While some children may be motivated to accomplish this all within the first month, there are others who prefer procrastination techniques and who are busily trying to complete "the list" in a two-week time period before that revered birthday (I won't mention any names). Some of us just work better with a visible deadline. While the requirements might change for each child (for example, Mariana can already find her way around a kitchen making anything from yeast bread to a full-course meal to an elaborate dessert so she will not need to spend a week in the kitchen to prove it), the goal is always to encourage the child toward the goals stated above.

So, for those who have asked, here is what Andrew received one year ago:

On this 15th birthday, “Mom and I” want to bless you and encourage you as you grow to become a young man. We have seen how you are a leader in your own way. We want you to know that when you turn 16, we are planning a very special day for you—a day that you will never forget. But in order to prepare for that day, we have some “assignments” for you to accomplish. These assignments will be challenging, but hopefully very fruitful. It is our desire that you will see these assignments as opportunities to grow and mature as a man. With these assignments, we commit to supporting you financially and with any transportation you need to accomplish these goals.

To accomplish by March 13, 2011:

• I would like you to plan a special evening with Mom. Figure out how you could plan a special evening for her and then accompany her as she goes that evening. Dinner, movie, theatre, concert, etc. How you plan the evening is up to you. You are free to consult me with anything, including financial needs for the evening. During this evening you can expect some input from her about dating and how to treat a woman.
• I would like you to find a project to accomplish around the house. An outdoor or an indoor painting project, redoing a room, building a fence, or a significant landscaping project are all options, but I would like you to look around and plan on the project. You can solicit help from anyone in the family you would like. I commit to being your helper. The ideal time to accomplish this is summer, 2010, so let’s start planning now on what that project could be.
• I would like for you to have a part-time job/business of your own. This job can be something like working at Brother’s Pizza, etc. Or it can be a business of your own that you start, such as a video business, lawn mowing in the neighborhood, or something related to violin playing, etc. I would be glad to help you as you start thinking about this. The goal is to have this going by March 13, 2011.
• I would like you to upgrade your own banking account. Change from a savings account to a full-fledged checking and savings account. As you start earning money, put together a plan of giving, saving, etc. I will be glad to help you with this, or you can talk with someone at church that you trust how to do it. Also, as part of this assignment and the last one, you will now be responsible for buying your own clothing (hand-me-downs and thrift shop finds will still be free) and providing the funds for your own entertainment (we will continue to fund regular church and school activities).
• I would like you to plan an all-day adventure for our family. Hiking the Appalachian Trail, biking, picnic, going to Gettysburg for the day… all great options. Choose wisely and plan in advance, taking into account all the children and their needs.
• I would like you to be the cook for the week for our home sometime during the next year. Mom will help you as you plan, shop for, and prepare all the meals. And we’re sorry, fella, but there will be no fast food allowed. ☺
• I will give you driving lessons in the church parking lot and teach you what I know about driving without being on the road. (Did I just say that?).
• I will take you to a sporting event of your choice (Hockey, Football, Basketball, Phillies, etc.). Make the choice, understanding my Sunday responsibilities @ McBIC (meaning that Eagles Tix might be difficult).

Andrew, I hope that you see these “assignments” as fun and meaningful for you, and yet they require special planning on your part. I so much want to share this time with you this year as you grow up into adulthood, so let’s continue to keep talking about how I can help you.

Age 16: Well, I can't tell you what this step is because it's a secret and Andrew doesn't know what it is yet. Check back in a few weeks.

Ages 19 and 21: TBD

So, there you have it. I'm sure you are surprised at some of the items on the list and have already decided that you would include assignments that we left out. That's fine! You need to think about your goals for your children, the steps that need to be taken to get there, what ages you want to acknowledge, and how you want to do that. We have friends who take their children to New York City to celebrate 13th birthdays. The weekend is to spend time together, and to talk in the context of a very different culture. Many people plan a diinner to celebrate a special birthday and invite people to speak. I know several families that ask friends and mentors to write notes to the birthday child and then make a scrapbook of the letters of encouragement. Sometimes it's an elaborate party with friends and mentors.

Whatever you decide, the good news is, you're thinking about it. John and I have both come to believe that rites of passage are very important in a culture that invented the idea of teen-ager and that allows a person several years after childhood to sit back, relax, and goof off before embarking on a life-long journey of adulthood. John has been a youth or young adult pastor long enough for us to see the importance of challenging our children to move beyond dependence and mediocrity. We want to be purposeful in our parenting to raise children who will be wise and responsible decision-makers, able to live independently of us (we love our children dearly but John is already afraid that his empty nest days are too far off to envision).

Here are resources I would recommend to get you thinking:
Raising a Modern-Day Knight and Raising a Modern-Day Princess by Robert Lewis
Celebrations of Faith by Randy and Lisa Wilson
Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris


  1. Thanks for sharing the details of this process, and how it's worked for your family. Our oldest is 7, but as they say, "they grow up quick," so it's good to be thinking about our purpose as parents. Blessings on you, and hope you have some great meals this week!

  2. Actually, Kirsten, 7 is a perfect time to start thinking about it. Determine the goals you have for your children by the time they graduate from high school and then decide what steps need to be taken along the way to reach those goals. Our first set of goals are actually for age 5, even though there wasn't a special ceremony or celebration at that step. The age 5 goals included things like praying aloud, participating in family chores, and bathing/showering self. Age 10 is the next step which includes having a mentor, doing chores and daily hygiene without reminders, daily devotions with guidance, keep a bank account book (with your "piggy bank" money, although since by this age several of our children have been receiving paychecks they do actually have bank accounts), etc. The idea is to be purposeful. Have fun!

  3. Great words and great thoughts ... Raising a Modern Day Night is a great read and I've been thinking / planning what's coming as our oldest hits 13 this summer.

  4. Hi Cindy - you don't know me but I was a student at Christopher Dock when "Mr. King" was a counselor there. I checked out your blog the other day when John posted it on his facebook, and I just wanted to say that I am SO glad I did! God has really had me thinking recently about the ways we are raising and "training up" our 2 boys (ages 6 & 8) and I was just so inspired to read this post. This really got my husband and I discussing how we can apply some intentional "mile-markers" in our family. Thank you so much for being so open about your parenting techniques. I told John and I want to tell you too, I think you're children are so blessed to have such wonderful parents and I feel fortunate to be able to see your parenting example! :)Thank you!