When my 18-year-old son recently had his wisdom teeth removed, I joked that this was his rite of passage. “Some people fast on mountains or get covered in fire ants,” I said, recalling documentaries I’ve seen about how other cultures initiate adolescents into the world of adults. “We take out wisdom teeth.”
For most in our contemporary, Western culture, there is no rite of passage between youth and young adulthood. Getting a driver’s license might count, or going to college. But what if parents intentionally set out to create a series of challenges and experiences to not only mark but prepare young people for this significant passage? That’s what author Beth Bruno did with her 12-year-old daughter, Ella, a journey she chronicles in her new memoir, A Voice Becoming, a Yearlong Mother-Daughter journey into Passionate, Purposed Living (Faith Words, 2018).
Bruno, an activist who founded a nonprofit to prevent human trafficking, is a mom of three. Her husband, a therapist, crafted a similar year-long experience for their older son, dubbing it the “Man Year,” which included sailing in the Pacific and flying a Cessna. “Needless to say,” Bruno writes, “our daughters have been waiting.”
So Bruno crafted a similar year-long experience for her oldest daughter, organized around five themes: Women Lead, Women Love, Women Fight, Women Sacrifice, and Women Create. To kick things off, Bruno picked up her daughter from school on her 12th birthday and whisked her off on a surprise trip to Turkey, where she’d been born. Other moms might find similarly meaningful ways of starting off their own year-long journeys, Bruno suggests, even if they are closer to home.
“We are raising our girls to humbly embrace their role in the greater family of God, to consider the ways in which they can share their portion and offer themselves alongside of what God is already doing around the world. There are strong and visionary women in every culture who could effectively lead their generation and their country in ways more reflective of God’s kingdom. The question is what do they need from us and how might we assist them?”
To assist moms on crafting their own yearlong journey, Bruno offers charts, goals, and ideas designed to meet each family’s needs, interests, and budgets. Most of all, she says, don’t get discouraged by the expectation that the teen years are something to be feared and endured. “There is more than a season of attitude, more than a season of delayed responsibility, more than an obsession with bodies, boys, and besties that awaits our teenage daughters,” Bruno writes. “But it will require you to have eyes to see. It will require you to cast a vision.”
While flying to Turkey might be a stretch for many families, Bruno casts a vision that will lead families toward crafting their own journeys toward honoring the passage to adulthood, offering a meaningful alternative to fasting or fire ants or the cultural norm, which is to do nothing.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. She received a free book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.