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You are here: Home Resources E-Newsletter Archive Summer 2011, Issue IX Navigating the Waters of Change

Navigating the Waters of Change

Parent and Program Mentor, Michael Scott Brooks, writes about his experience being a parents of a Solo Crossing participant. He gives some practical tips for navigating the changes.

By Michael Scott Brooks

When I led my first Coming of Age Trip for Journeys back in the summer of 1997, my daughter was a curly little red headed girl with no more than four years experience on Planet Earth. I can still see her in my mind’s eye, joyfully bouncing and bobbing in between all of the “big kids” as they prepared to go off on some great adventure with her dad. That memory still brings a smile to my face every time I think about it, as do the memories of that very first trip. Thirteen years later at the ripe “old” age of seventeen, she had reached a point in her life when it was time to venture out into the wilderness of her own imagination to discover whatever would be waiting for her on the other side … And as a parent, I can tell you that I was far more nervous about that particular expedition, than I ever was as a guide on any other trip before or since.

one of those “leaping” times, not just for her; but also for myself and her mother. Unlike the days of her childhood, this was not about giving her a longer leash and a little more responsibility … This was about cutting the leash and trusting her to find her own way.

The nature of Creation is in a constant state of change, each molecule affecting its neighbor … And so it would be with adolescence and our little family. Admittedly, my ego would have been content with the relative comfort of knowing who my daughter would be, and how I would be relating to her when I woke up the next morning … But the Human Soul craves a deeper experience. And so it was that I found myself sitting under the shade of a large fir tree, quietly observing the scene unfolding before me, as she unpacked her gear under the watchful eyes of her new Journeys mentor. At that moment, I knew in my heart that nothing would ever be the same again. Yet, mixed with this sense of sadness, there was also a palpable thrill … The buzzing of wingless bees making honey, the first flight of fledglings from the nest, flowers that poke their heads up in spring, a human being, stepping out for the first time to walk on the surface of the moon. This was big stuff. A moment filled with the sweetness of laughter, nervous anticipation, and the unseen hand of fate. “Who knows?” I said to myself,  “Maybe now I can finally relax a little.” Help had finally arrived.

It’s ironic to think that the bonds between parent and child could be made stronger by letting go of the child; but as far as I can tell, that’s exactly the way it works. In my own case, I found myself thinking about my daughter more often when she was gone than I did in some cases while we were living under the same roof. The surprising thing was, that in the three weeks that followed her departure, I felt closer to her than I ever imagined possible. While she was away, I wore a necklace close to my heart to remind me that while some things change, others do not. Mentors may come and go, and children may grow up to follow their own stars; but a parent’s love is eternal. That is a special gift that no one else can give them … And it is one that our children will eagerly await opening each and every time we welcome them home again.

Here are some practical tips for parents navigating these waters of change:

·      Create a little ritual or a ceremony for yourself while your young person is in the backcountry. This doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, just something simple that has meaning for you (Like my necklace). If you need help coming up with ideas, the people at Journeys will be glad to offer some guidance.

·      Consider the implications that your child’s journey into adulthood will have on your own path through life. Take some time to walk in the woods, as they are walking … or to sit in contemplation as they will be sitting. This is also a good way to support your children and stay connected with them while they are away.

·      Listen to your child’s story when they come home. Pay special attention to the fated moments of the epic journey they have just completed. Let them be your guide. This is a time to allow yourself to be educated about the new adult that is being born into the world.

·      Be prepared for the unexpected. This is not about what we as parents want from our children’s lives, but rather what our children’s lives want from themselves. For example: My daughter left a figure skater and returned with a passion for rock climbing, snowboarding, and a future career as a Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist. She will also be returning as a Journeys Mentor. 

·      Look for creative ways to support the changes that are taking place in the life of your young adult. Returning back to popular culture from a backcountry initiation is challenging. For example: I took my daughter to a lecture on Wolverines. We also go to the climbing gym once or twice a week. These activities help to remind and reinforce what she brought back with her from the wilderness.

·      Lead by example: Your young adult will have a much easier time following their passion in life if they have a mature adult blazing a trail ahead of them.

·      Remember: In some sense, when we gain an adult, we lose a child, so recognize and honor this as a time of grieving. Be kind to yourself. We can only be there for our children to the extent that we are taking good care of ourselves. And once again, they learn from our example! 

Finally, keep in mind that the “goal” of any Journeys experience is not necessarily for your child to have an epiphany about the direction their life is headed in.  Conventional models of success simply don’t apply here. It is more accurately about gradually getting to the heart of what the initiate’s life is “aimed at.” After all, I did not find my calling until I was in my thirties. Any young person who completes a Journeys adventure comes home a hero or a heroine. Moreover it is a skill set gained and a heightened awareness of their unique gifts and abilities that will eventually enable them to recognize “The Burning Feather of the Firebird” when they cross its path in the physical world. As Mythologist Michael Meade puts it “Picking up the burning feather is a symbol for risking the full-hearted, passionate presence of life… The feather of spirit is intended to magnify the presence of a deep inner self and a core imagination that holds the essence of the life trying to live it’s way into the world.”


As always it will be my honor and my privilege to facilitate this work with your children over the summer. I look forward to meeting each and every one of them.

Love and Blessings,

Michael Scott Brooks, Journeys Trip Leader


Meade, Michael. The Water Of Life: Initiation and the Tempering of the Soul. Green Fire Press, 2006

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