College Graduation: The Knight Stage

A proud mom and dad with their college graduat

This third ceremony is unique for three important reasons. First, it is here that we formally initiate our sons into manhood. Youth ends here. The ceremony takes an evening — or even a full weekend — of private interaction, when we discuss in depth this new life of independence and the responsibilities that come with it. We spend time defining additional aspects of the family crest, especially the crown and wreath, which depict authentic manhood.

More than ever before, we challenge him to aspire to it, for now is the time. Reject passivity! Accept responsibility! Lead courageously! And again, the son is given the opportunity to ask questions, with robust interaction often taking place.

This ceremony is also unique because of a special gift. At the appropriate time, the young man's father reaches into his pocket and presents his son with a powerful reminder of this moment. A ring. But not just any ring. A ring of great value.

Applying the first rule of ceremonies ("memorable ceremonies are costly"), we took our family crest to a jeweler and asked him to engrave this image on a gold ring. It cost nearly $1,000, and the three fathers contributed equally toward the expense. Like nothing else we do, this costly gift "spikes" forever in a young man's mind the importance of the occasion. It is his dubbing as a knight.

The college graduation ceremony was the first milestone marker for Bill Parkinson, Jr., (we developed the process after he had graduated from high school). He was absolutely floored by the experience. He told his dad afterward that the whole evening was a blur and said he didn't remember half of the things that Bill, Bill and I had said to him. He asked if we could write down the things we had shared, which we did.

During the family meeting at home that night, Bill, Jr., kept looking at his ring, pulling it off his finger and admiring the design. Later, he confided that this ceremony was a major turning point in his life.

For Ben Parkinson, this ceremony was just as profound. He said the ring "became a symbol of manhood and of my commitment to Christ." As Ben reflected upon that evening, he realized that the reason he was secure in his faith, his values, and in himself was because his parents were committed to these same ideals.

Joining the Round Table

The college graduation ceremony is special for one more reason. Once a son has been through this ceremony, he formally joins the dads as a "fellow knight." He is now to be included in their round table. For the first time, he becomes an active participant in the other manhood ceremonies with the younger sons as they reach these same milestones.

Once Bill Parkinson, Jr., had completed his ceremony, he was able to be present when his brother Ben went through his manhood initiation. It meant a lot to Ben to see Bill there and to hear him share his growing manhood experiences. Before long our round table grew from three knights to six.

This particular ceremony continued to evolve. Our goal was to make the college graduation ceremony a weekend event instead of an evening. We wanted to get away for at least two days and discuss key manhood concepts that I regularly present in my Men's Fraternity materials. That, plus some manly activities (hunting, fishing) and leisurely discussions would make our initiation into manhood even more memorable.

Excerpted and adapted from Robert Lewis' book Raising a Modern-Day Knight, a Focus on the Family book. Copyright © 2007, Robert Lewis. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.