By Tim Shaw
What traditions do your family enjoy? Mine looks forward to the start of baseball season, vacation each summer, eating our favorite foods during the holidays, decorating the Christmas tree, and watching the Olympics. Not only do we look forward to these things, but we work hard to maintain our traditions, no matter how insignificant they might seem to anyone else! Can you relate? One tradition my sons and I have enjoyed over the years—something we never wanted to miss—is New Life’s annual father/son overnight held each fall.
Here’s what always happens: We stop for dinner at the same restaurant on the way there and stop for ice cream at the same shop on the way back. The first night, fathers and sons pile onto a tractor for a moonlit hayride, after which the boys nimbly jump off while the older guys disembark more carefully. A campfire with s’mores is followed by pickup games of basketball, street hockey, and Ga-ga before it’s “lights out” (aka, “I wish I were home, sleeping in my own bed!”). The next day begins with breakfast and a time for father/son devotions before archery, riflery, ropes courses, and slingshots. After lunch, we spend free time breathing in the fresh air of the country and getting in those final rounds of play before packing up and heading home.
That’s what always happens, and it’s nothing extravagant. So what makes this “church family tradition” so great? First, everything turns into a competition, for the boys and the men, and that’s just good, plain fun. Everyone revels in seeing who’s best at wielding a bow, rifle, or slingshot. (By the way, never get on Alex Pinguli’s bad side!) Second, being able to spend time in nature, hanging out, doing activities together, playing, and making happy memories is wonderful. Finally, having time for impromptu conversations with other men—about job losses and successes, births and deaths, the joys and struggles of parenting—is a real blessing. Unforced talks between fathers and sons, while walking around the camp or riding in the car, are also special.
I can hardly believe it, but this year I joined the ranks of those whose sons are too old to go on this trip (it’s for boys in grades K-5). Are my kids really that old? Am I really that old? I am thankful New Life provided an opportunity for me and my sons to develop a healthy tradition of being together, of strengthening our relationship. And I hope we’re able to find ways to keep that going in the future.