Open Letter to my 12-year Old Son by Ryan Buford

Open Letter to my 12-year Old Son by Ryan Buford

May 15, 2018 self reliance 4


This is an incredible guest post about self sufficiency, manhood, the power of a father and basically all the things I love in life! I want to thank Ryan for offering this to the I AM Liberty audience. Its a powerful answer to the many struggles our young boys face in today’s world. Enjoy! 

An Open Letter to my 12-Year Old Son

Dear boy,

Soon enough you will know all there is to know. At least all I am able to teach you anyway. Give pause to the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. You are twelve now, but not for long, and 13 is just around the bend.

As we walk the dogs, you absorb the path. As we follow the deer at dusk, you absorb their routine. As we see the big dipper, the north star, or the moss on the trees you absorb a sense of direction. You may never need these things, but, if you do, I want you to know them by heart. I want you to know your terrain and the life among it. I want you to know your path and heading. But that’s not all.

Last summer you helped me plant in the garden and a few weeks ago we harvested what grew. Last year you learned to cook and this month we shared a meal from backyard to table. And while you may not know at the time just why, when I explain a sunflower seed’s power as it is dropped into the soil, there is in that moment a truth that will soon make sense. Trust me. When we harvest the head and the seeds pile up, it all comes together. Handfuls of seeds – handfuls – from one. Cultivated. Moment. I teach you now what little I know so when the time comes you’ll understand why.

I’m sure there are times when I don’t make much sense. I tend to wander and run with my distractions. But there is always a point subliminal. When we make fire without flame, or when we break out the power tools to create it is fun at face value. You get to see a spark ignite, I get to see a spark ignite. You get to feel a rush, I get to feel a rush. I see how some things click, and your Aha! moment gives me pride – not that I am all-knowing and all-seeing (although I sometimes confuse as such) – but that something, some little thing I wanted you to grasp has ignited itself and sparked a tangent in you. This is the part that no one can be told, and no experience rightfully explained. There is always a moment where you experience, fail, try again, repeat, and eventually succeed. These are the moments I’m trying to get across to you – the moments that need to take hold before my time is up. Before you can no longer hear me or believe me on little more than faith. If you are paralyzed by the need for evidence, the time to act will have come and gone.

I’m not certain of what other dads do, I’m guessing it is something different. Maybe they’ll usher their kids into boy scouts or girl scouts – let them do the teaching. Maybe they’ll do nothing. Let YouTube do the teaching. You’ll have friends, or parents of friends I’m sure, who will call me out. Survivalist. Nut job. Wacko. No need to defend me. They may find it odd that you can cook your own meals, mend your own clothes, run a chainsaw, fire a rifle and find your way home. Who needs that anyway when you can just order takeout, buy new clothes, turn up the thermostat, get food from the store, and use your phone for directions? What a waste of father-son time. They might make fun of the Leatherman you carry – just like your old man – and by the way that duck denim coat doesn’t match well with the latest style of ripped skinny jeans and branded hoodies. You will change on the outside to fit in like all teenagers do, but deep down I trust your “extracurricular” skill sets will help you out more than you know. Let these days go by as you grow tall and bloom. I’ll watch from a distance, hope for the best and know that you will be prepared for the worst.

But wait – I have so much more to teach and so little time! Shelter, first aid, teamwork and finances. Knots and water and threats – big and small – not so far beyond our little sphere. There is no monster like Murphy’s Law. Just like your father and grandfather and great grandfathers before them, our darkest days are only taken in stride when we can look back at moments we endured without money, power, clothes, medicine, food or shelter. Still, we survive. Without takeout or thermostats or technology. When it comes to these “unpopular” skills, I hold that it is better you have them and not need them than need them and not have them. My time has not been wasted. A people can only grow by building on the past, not by forgetting it. When I can no longer protect you, when I can no longer teach you, when I can no longer answer your questions, it will be up to you to face your darkest moments with a sense of generational clarity. Above all, you’ll need to learn to figure it out yourself with what little I’ve left you.

Other parents may be lax, but my urgency grows with the passage of time. I feel rushed to convey as much as I can before I’m lost in a haze of distractions and shiny new things. Soon there will be high school and perhaps college and career. You might be an international success, a mavin of technology and master of space and time where the trivial teachings of yours truly may fall into a sub-category far from the forefront of your everyday life. You may be the leader I never was.

Right now you are just a boy. No need to rush.

In my final hour as a father and parent all I can ask is that when, someday, you look down at a little boy or little girl of your own, you’ll understand the real why of my obscure approach. Take some of what I’ve said, build upon it, and give them just a bit more. On that someday you will cultivate these little seeds instead of discarding them without a hint of familiarity.

Always yours,


D Ryan Buford was raised in the Pacific Northwest and graduated from the University of Idaho. He is a freelance writer and will be producing a podcast in the near future. Learn more about Ryan and see his work at



4 Responses

  1. jim says:

    There’s so much truth to that.and it was deffently which.i’ll deffently be adding a link to here.and the letter,to my forum.and to others,in which im a member of.

  2. Paul says:

    You are not alone in teaching your son the things that he may never need to use.
    Like so many things in life, it is always better to have them and not need them than it is to need them and not have them.
    Keep it up and know that it will be appreciated in the future.

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