How can we prepare our boys for success as men, ethically, morally, physically and spiritually? Photo: Marvin Joseph
Most cultures have its rite of passage as boys swing into manhood. The Jews celebrate with the Bar Mitzvah and its ritual reading of the Torah, the Masai with a circumcision after a schooner of cow's blood and in Vanuatu boys toss themselves off a 30-metre tower with vines around their ankles.
But what about the tradition-free, agnostic, Australian kid? What can he expect to get apart from a 13th birthday party where the parents stand around scuttling piss while the kids sneak a few darts into their lungs as they play on the new X-Box?
As my own kids inch closer to becoming teenagers, it's something I've been throwing out to various friends - how can we groom our boys for success as men, ethically, morally, physically and spiritually?
The best idea I heard was to take the kid away for a weekend camping and to bring a selection of men who will take the boy aside and explain to him the mysteries of his own field of expertise. And, one by one, to open the conversation on their topic by the fire for debate and consolidation.
The question is, who do you take? Women, work, the big question, avoiding premature death, how to stay upright and healthy. That's what I want my boys to be exposed to. Here, therefore, are the six men who'll appear fireside:
Some men have an innate ability to engage women, others develop it. But the one thing they all agree on is the general ease at which a girl can be drawn into this man's orbit. Through elements of surprise, flattery, confidence and humour, these men are able to actually choose their mates, not be chosen. And with the ability to choose they're able to fly close to a more real, deeper love. They're not ones to fall madly in love with the first girl that returns their gaze. The Player will teach my boys how to talk to girls, the importance of respect, how to avoid the crazy ones and that beauty is there in every girl and not just the ones that bounce around in tiny skirts. Maybe yes! Often no!
Here is someone who can fly a plane, instruct in kung fu, scuba-dive, who has degrees from an Ivy League university and whose years are split volunteering for NGOs in Cambodia and Sudan and various other troubled countries. He'll teach my boys that succeeding is satisfying beyond imagination. That while it might be alienating at times within the school culture to be so into your work, once you break free of the need to be a jock or a cool kid and open the tap of the potential inside, the world opens like an oyster.
Life is short. You will suffer and you feel fantastic joy. Pain will come and pain will go and so will love. How you react to these highs and lows will determine what kind of man you will become.
Without a strong body, money and possessions are meaningless. If you can't get out of bed in the morning because your back is wrecked from a lifetime at a desk, what use is there?
He's seen it all. He's heard every problem. And he knows that while alcohol is the greatest of social lubricants, overuse will make you fat and dumb.
How many teenagers does a cop have to scrape off the side of the road before anyone listens? Or kids dead from games of "One Punch"? The Cop knows that young men are rockets with the shortest of countdowns. He knows that all it takes is one accidental bump to set off a chain reaction that ends with death or jail. He knows that all it takes is an extra ten clicks on that corner to make the tyres slip and the car take out that tree. His wisdom overflows. The Cop will talk and the boys will listen.
Who would you bring fireside?