At 36 years old, Barrett Caldwell was on furlough from his job in Nashville in 2020, due to the pandemic, so he decided to move back home to Charleston, South Carolina to save money. Barrett has a great relationship with his dad— “My Dad is a phenomenal father who has loved me well for 36 years. I can’t articulate any father wounds,” he describes. But moving in with his parents again, and the two spending more time together than they had in almost two decades, the shallowness in their relationship was revealed to both men.
“My Dad and I vary dramatically in our communication styles, and with that, walls had formed around the topics we’d cover, the depth to which we’d go in communicating the realities of life, and particularly making time to connect on a deeper level than career, sports, and ‘life updates,’ Barrett explains.
Kenny agrees, “We have never had divisive issues in our relationship, and because of Bear’s effort, our communication is good. However, my true knowledge of his heart is shallow, and I have difficulty exposing my weaknesses in a consistent way.”
When the men met Tim and other Christ in the Smokies board members at the Radical Mentoring conference in the spring of 2021, Barrett knew it was something he wanted to do with his dad. After they talked about it, they both agreed it would be good for their relationship.
“We both desire a deeper, more intentional relationship. Leading up to camp I had almost a sense of urgency, a feeling of a chance to ‘make up for lost time,’” Kenny describes. “I desired to gain a better sense of who my son is, what his true, unspoken battles are, and to allow God to trigger change in my own life, to more deeply understand what Bear desires and needs from me, continually… a more honest , intimate path.”
Barrett also had high hopes for their time at Passage to Manhood. “I had a hope that walls would break down, we’d be forced to go deeper in one-on-one time, we’d enjoy solo time for the first together in years, we’d worship together, and that we’d navigate towards a growing relationship as peers or counterparts as opposed to the ‘father parenting a son’ role.”
The two found their time at camp to be relationship-building, as they had hoped. They made pacts to work on strengthening their relationship, to make each other a priority while Barrett is living at home, and to carve out time to really invest in their relationship.
Kenny walked a way with a deeper understanding that “the most God-honoring thing I can do in my son’s life is to pursue understanding of his heart… and because of who Christ is and what He has done, we will both be changed.”
He describes the return from camp: “Our ride home was about five hours. I recall a sort of new sense of comfort together. We made an agreement to more honest and consistent dialogue. We agreed it was a need, not just a desire. Nothing is off the table…”
While both father and son learned much about each other and God, and deepened their relationships with both, they explain how the experience at Passage to Manhood Camp isn’t the end, but rather just the beginning.
“I learned so much about my Dad’s upbringing and his own father/family wounds that have carved him into the man he is today,” Barrett reflects. “I’d say I came into CITS with some bitterness and resentment towards Dad and his inability to initiate communication or invest in activities or time with me. Post CITS, I no longer harbor that frustration, but have instead found grace and the acceptance that it’s just who Dad is, and it’s my job to move towards him as opposed to expecting him to move towards me in closeness.”
Kenny expresses thankfulness for the time they had a Christ in the Smokies. “The application of the time and tools we were given at camp has brought about a more distinct sense of where the gaps in our relationship are. The ongoing battle is to close those gaps, which we both realize is life-long…”
Kenny encourages other fathers and sons to embrace their own Passage to Manhood Camp adventure. “You, nor your son, are ever too old to do this together,” he concludes.