A philosophical rant on raising a child to survive the end of times

This guest post by P and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

We had a child.

A little boy. A few months ago.

It changed things. While I have always been one of the ‘self-sufficient’ types, I never necessarily ascribed to the idea of being a prepper. Not exactly. My life was spent in the woods – growing up hunting and fishing with the old man. I served a short stint in the military, where I admit I spent more time in trouble than not, and the entire time yearning, always, to get away. After that, I went to the rigs, and there spent more years in the bush, working as a roughneck in the North. That was a rough crowd- mostly Natives and Newfies who, for their part (and I suppose like any other group of people) have their really good ones, and their really bad ones. I learned a bit of Cree (my grandma was Ojibwa, though I don’t remember her), and learned to almost understand a drunk Newfie.

I logged in the winters, when the rigs shut down.

Planted trees, Canadian-style in the summers.

Spent months and months in tents and bush camps, and I did this for years. When I wasn’t in the bush, I surfed couches and stayed in hostels, and I slept in sleeping bags along remote highways, and woke up under six inches of snow, often enough, and never didn’t have my rifle in my truck.

Yes, even in Canada, if you live in the right places, you can take your rifle with you.

I met a girl. I got married. Things began to change. We started looking at houses that we might want. We started looking at furniture. We rented a nice place in a City, and she had a good job as a scientist while I did what I could to make a living. I worked in a factory- building a precast concrete form day in, day out.

You don’t know how ill-fitted you are, a guy who works in the bush, to live in a City until you try.

Talked about mortgages and debt management, and the cost of real estate, and I wondered if I should go to school. Get a degree. Computers. Finance. Something useful.

Sometimes, I would want to peel back the skin on my face. I wanted to rip out my own teeth. I was a ball of rage, and I could believe how trapped and crazy the City made me. I would get drunk, I would get in trouble, I wanted out.

We had a boy.

I looked around at other boys, in the City. I looked at the generation that is being raised- heads immersed in Phones and iPods. In our neighbourhood, I’d never seen, not once, a child on a bicycle. There were children around, you’d see them in and out of the mini-van, but never once did I see them actually doing something outside. What happens to a boy that never learns to fire a rifle? Never learns to string a bow or build a fire? Who cannot use a compass, or tie a knot, or who walks through the bush and doesn’t know oak from ash from maple?

What kind of a father raises such a milquetoast? What father raises a pansy narcissist capable of murdering in Call of Duty 2, but incapable of bearing the heft of a rifle and a pack. A boy who shops jeans and hairstyles, but cannot swing an axe, nor is even interested in doing so?

So, we left the City.

We left, and are living now, with family, in as close to the bush as I’ve been in two years. We’re raising our boy to survive. Our children ( because we’ll have more than one, for certain) will learn to plant a garden, to shoot, to fight, to work hard and endure. I’m logging again, in these parts, and it pays the bills. It’s selective logging- managing small woodlots sustainably. Hand-felling. Milling. Firewood.

My wife wants to stay home, and raise strong children, and that far outweighs, in importance to God and Country, any business card and salary her career might have given her. We want to be good parents, and to give our children the strength of character to survive any calamity that might occur.

He will learn to work hard. I worked for my old man from when I was eight years old- and it was construction work. Hard work. There was no labour job I couldn’t do. My boy will learn the same. He will learn to plant trees, climb trees, and fall trees- and if he wants to do what Dad does, and things haven’t collapsed, there will be a place for him, and a well-run business for him, someday, to takeover.

He will learn to respect people, but they will be, like their old man, fundamentally anti-authoritarian. They will learn to question everything. They will read some of the greats- Thoreau, Emerson, Muir. Distrust government- it is the refuge of weak people seeking power.

My boy will learn to live outside. He will learn to endure rain and cold and heat. He will know to drink enough water, to pack the right gear. He will be physically fit, and be capable of walking and running for long distances, because that’s what we do when we hunt. He will know that what truly separates a good ‘camper’ from a ‘hopeless city-guy’ is experience and work ethic. Mental strength.

He will learn to fight. He will learn to stand up for himself. Parents who deny training their children in boxing or a martial arts are cruel. They are cruel because they have denied their child the capability of self-defense, and the schoolyard is far more feral, far more Darwinian than what most adults are used to.

Bullying, on the other hand, will NOT be tolerated.

The boy will learn the bush. He will learn what I can teach him about plants and trees and lichens and mosses and ecology. The natural world is the most important- the most absolutely important thing in THIS world. We, as humans, are a threat to it, and like a bloated, consuming and insatiable monster. He will not be like that. He will know his place in this world, and seek to pass through it with minimum impact.

He will learn to garden. Eventually, the garden will become a farm.

He will learn the importance of community, and of knowing good people. The farm will help pay bills, someday, but in lean times, it will be the source of our charity.

The boy will learn that, to become a man, and husband, and a father, the most important role is the survival and protection of your family. But, I don’t want this survival to be in some remote bastion, somewhere, removed from humanity. My experience is that humanity is both good and bad, and you seek out the good. You become the good. So, I hope the boy learns the virtues I strive, each day, to attain. Integrity. Honesty. Work ethic. Family. Community leadership. Environmental stewardship.

This is how I strive to raise my boy, and my children. This is how, I hope at least, to make survivors out of them, to give them the skills and traits of character to endure, when many other’s will fail.

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Comments

  1. Horse'sass says:

    An inspirational goal. If only more people were like this, instead of fathers outright abandoning their kids, if not just through divorce, but to the allure of iphones and videogames to act as surrogate parents.

    The other thing though is to teach them to be aware of what goes on behind the political and banking systems and how they can affect you. It’s not love of money and power, it’s understanding how they can be used or abused, and to not let yourself or family be used. Awareness.

  2. That’s some good writing, and I share your frustration. However, to think that your boy will turn out the way you WANT him to is naive. Give him the knowledge…but you can’t MAKE him a survivor.

    Just be sure you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment.

    • Wise words. We get so tied up in how we want our kids to turn out that we sometimes forget they are their own people at some point. This is the corollary to the paradox about instilling independence: prepare yourself emotionally for the possibility that they may still reject your teachings and guidance (on the surface, anyway).

      Therein lies the eternal challenge of the thinking parent: to resist becoming a dominating force, the very kind of influence of which we try to teach them to be wary. There is a very dynamic and delicate balance to be sought here. I have had to re-evaluate my own parenting style and philosophy many, many times over the years, and because each parent and child is different, no one formula applies universally. We have to find our own way, be willing to admit when we’ve made mistakes (I am an expert at this), have an open mind and be willing to compromise sometimes, and sustain the courage of our convictions in the face of so many who would not agree with our methods.

      As if life in these modern times was not complicated enough…

  3. This was a good read.

    As the father of 2 boys, 9 and 12, I had a chuckle about the “fundamentally anti-authoritarian”, because as a parent this becomes a paradox; you want them to think for themselves, but as they grow up, most of that questioning and bucking of authority is directed at YOU.

    For sure, the things you want to teach them and have them become have great value, especially in these times. I can say with conviction that parenthood is the ultimate trial in powerlessness, and have to trust that the values we attempt to instill and demonstrate have a lasting impact on them. We walk a fine line between persuasion and coercion some days, but most of us (a larger percentage for those who are parents and read this blog, I imagine) do our best, no matter where we live or our skill set.

    We teach them and love them and send them out into the unforgiving world with hopes and prayers that they become good, happy people. It sounds like your kids will have a good start, much better than many.

    • Some days we push. Other days we puyll. Somedays we just sit back and smile. There is always the chance that we will also cry.

  4. It sounds a little bit utopian to my cynical ears… but boy what a utopia!!! I have nothing but well wishes for you and your family. Please consider giving us a few updates over the next few years.

    There was a time when this was a common ideal for living (even if never attempted or achieved). Outdoor, self sufficient, free, strong children. Nowadays I can imagine a lot of twisted minds would consider this borderline abuse.

    Again, good luck!

  5. Mystery Guest says:

    Good article and kudo’s to you and your family.

  6. Nice!!

  7. Thanks for sharing. And good luck with the path you have chosen. Many of us wish we had the courage to do the same.

  8. Petticoat Prepper says:

    Excellent read! I agree with jaxun about the “fundamentally anti-authoritarian”. When I was pregnant with our daughter the main worry we had (aside from healthy) was that we’d end up with a ‘wimpy’ kid. Boy did God answer the unsaid prayer. Our daughter was a strong willed child and grew into a strong young woman. jaxun is correct that strenght will be tested before striking out on his own and will come back straight at YOU.

    That said, your boy and future children are lucky they have the two of you. They may not realize it until they look into the face of their first child and understand the job they’ve just begun, but they are lucky.

    While I didn’t have the bush time you’ve had, I did grow up rural. We had hundreds of acres and I spent most of my free time in the trees. Being alone in nature is wonderful and I’m comfortable with my own company. DH and I live in the city and while I’ve the biggest lot in the subdivision…it’s still the city. I appreciate the need to leave it. I own the place and havesince before our nearly 30 years of marriage. I’m gaining gound on that now and hope to leave in a few years. My DH has never live it. Didn’t understand any of it until a recent trip there. Suddenly he heard the quiet, sometime I’ve longed for. He’s more interested now. I’ve a business plan that he sees will work. I just need a couple of years and we’re gone.

    It’s good your DW is home now. This is the best place she can be and your children will be better for it. I can see you two will be awesome parents. Again, a very good read. I enjoyed your candor and the background set up. Good job, well done!

  9. OUTSTANDING. If there were more people with this fortitude the world would be an amzing place. I aspire to raise my children (2 girls) in much the same way. Most these days ONLY experience life via an electronic gadget while rarely going out to LIVE life adn experience the outdoors. These are the people who will vanish if the power ever goes out and I and my family will not be among them when they do. Great article.

  10. worrisome says:

    Exposure….children need exposure to lots of things. Self assurance comes with knowing how to do lots of things. When my 4 were growing up, we lived both a rural life and an urban life at times. No matter where we lived, there was a garden, canning, fruit trees and berries. We lived very frugally and took those 4 on several cross country vacations. They went to Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the White House as well as country farms. They even stayed and worked on a ranch in the John Day, Or. area. We camped………..a lot. They were taught to shoot. They were taught the basics of cars……how to change oil, put on new brakes, put in a battery, etc. They also learned how to change a tire and put chains on. They played sports as their interests chose, baseball, basketball, swimming, skiing – both water and snow. martial arts, horseback riding, bicycles, whatever the interest was. They were exposed to music and not from just a radio, there were piano’s and violins and clarinets and believe it or not a tuba and drums. “Tis a parents choice to live an urban existence and NOT help prepare a child. And a lot of them are settling for television and xbox to entertain their children. The kids lose and so do the parents. You can live anywhere and give kids “more”…………but what you get when you work hard to give a child lots of exposure, is the world for yourself as well.

    • Tactical G-Ma says:

      Worrisome,
      I agree.

    • Sw't Tater says:

      Exactly, My children are grown…and were reared different from those about..It has served them well. The ability to do several things, the ability to think and learn independently, the ability to grow a few plants, cook from scratch.. Give those children as many different experiences and challenges as possible, we have found from experience it only benefits.

  11. craftyam says:

    Great article! Hope my daughter finds someone like you. She is currently divorcing (with 2 small kids) the exact opposite of you. Thanks

  12. Good luck! Raising children is definitely the hardest job you will ever have.

  13. I applaud your devotion and determination. I had somewhat similar ideals – until at 11 months my son, my second child, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. That was 30+ years ago, and many things were sacrificed to keep him close to doctors and therapy.

    Sometimes God’s plans don’t line up with ours.

    • An old saying which I live by; “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans”.

  14. Prepping Wife. says:

    While mildley insulting – I found this article very well written and very nice to read. I would actually vote for this one to be one of the winners!

  15. My children’s father raised my children this way until his death. They are all grown now and it affected them all differently. Some are very self sufficient and others just so-so. All you can do is expose them and hope it takes.

    As their mother I must back off and let them do what is natural for them as individuals because this is why we live in the USA, what we fight for, and our country is based on. What they all agree on is the right to live as they see fit. This they will defend with all their hearts.

    I can’t ask for more-I am truly blessed.
    B

  16. Rustymater says:

    Thank you for your words. I am a stay at home mom to two wonderful boys, 9 and 5. I did have a great salary as a software engineer but as soon as I found out I was having a baby, it was just felt right that be home with our children. I pray my sons go into this world prepared. Your post will help in our training.

  17. AlaskaLuke says:

    Amen, brother!

  18. Umm…can you be my dad? I’m only at the ripe ol’ age of 30, but if you’d let me, I’d be the best damn son you ever had!

  19. KR Prepper says:

    Thanks so much for this post. This post sounds like my dad. I thank God. My dad did a good job, but I spent so much of my time trying NOT to be him, that Im needing to force feed those ideals now as an adult. I grew up and now live in the “hood” again.

    I pray that God would use the people and lessons learned here to show my generation that there is some alternative, and that it can be very relevant. Survival does have “swag”.

  20. Goatlover says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article and applaud your efforts. Too few these days have the skills you possess to even TRY to teach them to their kids! As a grandma in my 50s, I am working hard to acquire the skills and the tools that my grandmothers had so I can at least instruct my grand kids in their use when the SHTF….

  21. private idaho says:

    the answer to what happens to a boy not raised to be self sufficiant is they grow up to be president, anyone comes to mind? i taught my children to shoot, fish, garden, and raise livestock. they are both girls that can do anything.

  22. Dammit man! – good writing ! As a father off two boys wrestling against the same modernist crap influences I gotta say this hit the mark. Wife makes a huge difference in this and much of my effort has been focused on de-programming the other half… I have not commented here in months.. I had to today.

  23. I felt like you did once. I brought my daughter up that way in primitive camps, taught her survival skills, self reliance, camping in Tipi’s, climbing mountains, living in the woods, etc., only for her to end up as a “city folk, too far in debt, working too many jobs to really enjoy life, under stress, keeping up with with the Joneses and buying the best of everything, but escape to a cabin once a year” adult.

    I hope your dream comes true. We always want our kids to experience and live a quality life like we did. and take after us. It skipped a generation in my family.

  24. Lake Lili says:

    So glad to have you parenting a boy here in our country! There are days when I feel like I am the only one who espouses those beliefs. Thanks for the reassurance that there ARE others like mine in the midst of this plugged-in, consumer driven, “expand the suburbs into the rural areas and complain at the smell of a cow” country we are becoming… time to take it back one kid at a time!

  25. From a fellow Canadian;
    Thank YOU..

  26. Adolf Sawatzky says:

    Wow. That totally resonates with me. I have 3 sons. Oldest 19 and 15 yr old twins. I could not have said that better. Thank you so much for sharing. So much of my life story parallels yours.

  27. Very nice!
    i loved the whole article. I have found after raising 3 boys, 30 to 18 yrs old that you can instill the best values, teach them everything you know, but you need to be open to who there are going to be as they grow.
    One of my boys could care less about finding native foods, growing, hunting, or learning survival skills. Even though he can do all of them. He is into fast cars, knarly 4×4’s, girls and the electronics. I let him follow his path after he learned all those things I needed him to learn, I backed off for him to play and learn on his own. We call it the “School of hard knocks for hard heads”. I feel he will come back to this lifestyle once he gets a taste of the real world. If not, he will be home when SHTF.
    It is hard when your children challenge you. I hope all of yours follow your path. They have a great start, with great parents. Bless you on your journey.

    • worrisome says:

      Mama J. You are right to allow your son his own path. My four each took very very different paths and I wondered at times where the heck they may end up. But all of them are responsible, contributing adults, using their brains well and following their own passions as to employment. Self assured children make self assured adults. You are absolutely right in making sure that they did learn what you had to teach them………..then forever after, you will get to learn how they used those lessons in some very interesting ways to overcome their challenges. Even if they don’t use those skills, they still know them and can rely on them when necessary.

  28. OwlCreekObserver says:

    Excellent piece. I’m sure you know that you face many challenges in the years ahead as your children become adults, but you already have two things that will give you a good shot at success: a two parent family and a plan.

  29. Encourager says:

    What a great read. Thanks for writing it. Just remember God has instilled in your son, and in your future children, a distinct personality that is their’s alone. Study your son, find out his “bent” and raise him so that his God-given talents will be manifest. If you try and force him into a mold you have created, it simply won’t work. You will have a rebellious (and he not even knowing why), unfulfilled, damaged child.

    Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

    ~~”Train – Initiate, and so, educate. The way he should go – Or, according to the tenor of his way, i. e., the path especially belonging to, especially fitted for, the individual’s character. The proverb enjoins the closest possible study of each child’s temperament and the adaptation of “his way of life” to that. “

  30. GoneWithTheWind says:

    Did I mention that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are great organizations and teach kids survival skills.

  31. Grumpy Vermonter says:

    Great read! Kudos to you and your family from me as well. I hope you take to heart what you’ve been told by the rest of the pack about letting your boy find his bent and encourage it. My own father tried to mold my brother to his specifications and it had disastrous results. My brother has disowned my father now.
    I also pray you and your wife will look into homeschooling. Our president is trying to outlaw homeschooling probably due to the fact that it creates people who think for themselves rather than follow along with the herd, wanting to fit in. Then there is that whole Agenda 21 aspect of the Core curriculum programs being pushed everywhere… But you have a great shot at raising good, smart and principled children and God bless you and your wife.

  32. Thank you to everyone who read my article, and took the time to comment. It was very gracious of you. Thanks especially for the words of wisdom- especially from the parental veterans.

    I will take it to heart.

    And Mike, thanks so much for publishing my article. Hope I can come up with some other things, worthwhile, to add to your site.

    Best of luck to the prepper’s, here. Interesting times seem to be on the horizon. I hope we can look after each other, our family, and our neighbours.

  33. nice poem

  34. So you DO exist!!!! Do you have a brother? ;)

    I really enjoyed what you wrote and find it refreshing to know that there are parents out there like you and your wife who are doing all they can to raise hard-working, self sufficient kids. Best of luck to you and your family!