I feared I had lost my son to his friends and to teenage life so I lured him into the High Sierra to celebrate his 18th birthday, and then threw him off a cliff.
Extreme, I know; but for those of you who work long hours, travel often, or ever worry about spending enough time with your kids, you can understand why I had to do it.
I had been gone so frequently, and had been so busy when I was home, that I went almost two months with hardly saying a word to him.
After spending over 16 years in the military including a decade in the SEAL teams my family became more than accustomed to me away on deployments and secret missions that would obscure my whereabouts for months. We were pretty good at it, thinking that when I left the Teams in 2008 things in our family could only get better, now that I wouldn’t be gone for months on end.
We figured “Quality Time” would show up in this soon to be “Quantity of time.” We could not have been more wrong. It would turn out that the closer I was to home the further I would be away from my family.
We all wake up everyday at home, go to work, and then come back home. Even if we go away for a few days on business we don’t really need to be “gone.” Phone, email, FaceTime, etc. keeps us no further than a few clicks away from “Home.”
Our Bodies Are There, But Where Are We?
They say “Home is where the heart is,” and for most of us our bodies may be present, but our hearts couldn’t be further away.
As parents we are competing with extreme circumstances. Since we are competing with a world of extreme when it comes to getting the attention of our kids, I’ve found that meeting extreme with extreme works well.
Even if your kid is only 5 years old he or she has nothing else to compare you to besides what they see on TV. Dangle your kid off a cliff and he quickly starts paying attention to the “Old Man.”
After miles of rugged off-road 4X4 only terrain we finally found ourselves atop an amazing mountain: overlooking a sea of painted trees, endless valleys and distant cliffs.
I got out of the truck and stood by my son just hoping for a miracle. Wishing that he would, once more, lean his head onto my shoulder and tell me he loves me, like he did as a child when I’d return from some far off place.
Then out of nowhere “CRACK!”, the, very out of place, sound of lightning striking just yards away from us. This was particularly concerning since there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Now certain we are taking fire from an obscure Sequoia tree hating terrorist cell holed up in Kings Canyon National forest, I begin to scan for threats. Then another “CRACK,” but this time the movement catches my scan. “Jason look, a tree is falling! ” We both set our attention on the massive tree, reaching the end of its time. In what seems like slow motion, the tree lists like a sinking ship, then hyper-accelerates to the ground splitting itself in two as it crashes around a more sturdy neighbor.
“Holy Shit Jason! Happy Birthday Buddy!”
In a flash we transformed from Eric and Jason back to father and son. Then, like the old tree that fell to give room for new life, I knew it was time for me to step aside so my son could become a man. Quality time had found us in the enduring nothingness called nature.
At The Dinner Table
The moment was beautiful – clearly a sign from above – time to throw my son off a cliff.
Now, we were both together, it was obviously time to find my cliff. During our drive in we noticed granite rocks just off the trail. After a few short minutes of scrambling about we found them: A perfect set of terraced stone walls up against the end of the world. It was late so we decided to eat dinner at the edge of infinity and forgo the cliff plunge until the next day.
I’ve often thought it strange that we regularly wait an hour for a good table at a restaurant but seldom will drive seven miles off road to eat a $7 backpacking meal on the edge of a cliff. This is the time and this is the place to dine with the past, present and future, to talk about everything.
Jason at the Cliff
Taking back what’s mine
There’s something about being the one to find the anchor points, tie the knots, rig your child’s climbing harness and set up the rappelling equipment. It puts you in a place of instant authority, control, and most of all trust.
Average is no longer the average in our world. It’s common place to see people base-jumping or literally flying over the earth before opening their parachutes.
The beauty, and our saving grace, of the extreme is that it’s all relative. I don’t care how many Youtube videos your kids have watched or how many X-games they’ve attended.
If it’s your first time crossing over the working end of a cliff with nothing more than your Dad’s knots and an “Atta Boy”, you’re now living in the extreme and the best part is that your Dad is now the hero keeping you alive…hopefully.
You’re boring and this story is just getting started.
So why am I telling you all of this? Certainly not so you can just post it on your facebook wall and tell people how interesting it is.
I’m sharing this story with you so that you will show your kids how much you love them – while you still can – by throwing them off a cliff.
I became fed up with looking online for things to do with my kids. The ideas are so boring that even Martha Stewart would have passed on them while she was still in prison.
It’s no wonder kids are turning to pop culture and drugs the moment they get a minute on your iPad.
This is the article that got the book "Raising Men - Lessons we learned in SEAL training and taught to our sons" started.
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