|My son's Victorinox Explorer|
I still remember that, for a kid, having a Swiss Army Knife was something special. A SAK invokes adventure, camping , carving wood, making holes, opening cans, and cutting some stuff to see what’s on the inside.
The first Swiss Army knife I ever owned only lasted me a few minutes. I was actually living in Boston at that time and happened to find it in the playground. Metal? bright read plastic? I must have been 5 or 6 years old and those things are hard to resist. Of course my wonderful possession was taken away from me as soon as the break ended and I innocently showed my treasure around. The kindergarten teacher took it away and actually threw it in a large trash-can. A child remembers those things, as that nice red knife fell into the trash, lost to me forever... That !#&!%*!, she could have given it to my mother at least, don’t you think? :-)
Anyway, back in those days I remember it was just cool to have a pocket knife, and if it was a real deal, original Victorinox Swiss Army knife and not one of the cheapo Chinese imitations then even better. What’s so special about it? Hard to say. I guess that for a kid, the color is a bonus. The blade is razor sharp right out of the box. The tools are numerous and at that age you think there’s nothing you can’t do with your SAK. Its an invitation to adventure and afternoons of exploration, unlimited possibilities for any kid with a bit of imagination.
Introducing kids to the Survival Mindset
Being responsible for a sharp tool is a good first step regarding dangerous tools. I see it as an introduction to later being responsible for larger knives and then guns. Along with the bushcraft skills in which it can be used, the SAK is a must, a first step into the survival and preparedness mindset. It helps that most survival manuals and books picture SAK of some sort. Kids feel they have THAT knife, the one in the book or magazines. The steel in the SAK is easy to sharpen the tool is easy to maintain and it can be sent for repair if it breaks.
In a way, the SAK is a symbol of independence and self reliance, the first steps into the path that will separate your kid from the rest of the sheep once they grow up.
A Kid’s first Swiss Army Knife
For as long as I remember I promised myself I would be a cool dad. I sure wish my dad had lots of guns, knifes, tools an gear in general. As I grew older though, I understood things must come at the right time so as to be appreciated and work their magic. Giving a child a USD400 Chris Reeve Sebenza makes no sense to me. You must start with the basics, learn and then the good stuff comes when you appreciate it. Following philosophy, up until now my son’s knife had been a cheap little plier mutitool. He loves that thing and he uses it for everything. He carries it in his pocket and offers it to me when I need a knife or some other tool. We’ve been sharpening it and the small blade does cut, but the rest of the tools are poorly made.
This week I decided it was time to get him a real knife. I also got one for my nephew who is 11 years old. My nephew is staying with us for a few days so I took this opportunity to work on that special relationship between cousins and cousin-uncle. I’m not close with my own cousins and know I’m missing something. I want my kids to have a better relationship with theirs. Its family after all, and if you have a good relationship then life is just better. Someone to share the good times and help during the bad ones. It’s also my duty as an uncle so I make sure they have the best possible time with uncle “Fer”.
After a quick visit to a local store I ended up with two Victorinox Explorers. These cost a bit over 50 bucks each. Amazon has them for $31.56.
That same day I gave the kids their brand new Swiss Army knives.
The results? Even better than I could possibly dream of. Its wasn’t just the expressions in their faces, or the continuous “Thanks Dad!" and “Thanks uncle Fer!"but the entire day was just full of wonderful, priceless moments. Giving kids their first knife is also a perfect moment to teach them lessons that will stay with them their entire lives, talking to them about the responsibility the gift comes along with. Never use it to play or hurt their brothers. Not leave it un supervised where his little brother could reach it. I also explained both of them how to use it, cutting away from their body and never towards it, mindful of their fingers. Never throw it. Never use force with the tools. Never cut over concrete or stone, but to use a wooden table or log instead. I explained that the tools are fragile and will snap if used improperly such as using the tip of the blade for prying. The boys listened to everything I had to say with unusual attention.
After the explanation, we did some feathersticks and I took the opportunity to teach them how to start a fire. They used it to cut plants, aloe vera leafs (they did some for of skin unguent with it), they used the magnifying glass to burn stuff and basically just spent the rest of the day in the garden playing with their new knives.
In the afernoon, they were reading some books with their knives next to them. As my wife walked by their room she said she overheard my nephew telling my son “ When we’re grown up, we’ll get together to have a beer and we’ll open them with the bottle opener in our knives”. Man, you can’t imagine how hard I wished that would come true some day.
During the entire day the boys kept saying thank you. At one point both of them came to me looking very serious and my son asked, “is it true that these knives are used by Swiss soldiers?”. I told them that yes ( actually its the Soldier model that is issued, but well, close enough...) and they looked at the knives in their hands with even more awe.
During dinner my niece (13 year old girl) asked her brother and my son what was the big deal about the knife, and what was it for.
My nephew thought for a second and said “Well, its a tool”. “A tool for what?” asked his sister.
“Its a tool for life” he said. I got goosebumps on my arms at hearing such an eloquent reply.
When the time is right, a Swiss Army knife is an important part of the initial transition stage between childhood and adulthood. That moment when you’re first trusted with some serious responsibilities (such as handling sharp tools) but still young enough to be full of dreams and an a rich imagination.
If the kid is lucky enough and the SAK survives without getting lost, it becomes one of his most prized possessions.
Take care folks.