My little boy zipped up his blaze orange jacket for the first time this morning.

The time has come for his first trek across the meadow and through the swamp, out to the tree stand. He's not old enough to hunt yet, but Glen took him along so he could be part of the experience.

I was more than a bit emotional as I watched them drive out of our yard, heading for Glen's family's hunting land. My little boy isn't so little anymore and it's getting harder and harder for my heart to accept these milestone moments that mark the passing of time.

Then, there's just something about watching a father take his child under his wing as he introduces a new generation to a longstanding tradition.

Before long, Dan will be a full-fledged hunter, shotgun in hand, listening intently to every sound that whispers through the naked trees.

From the looks of it, Monika will be a hunter soon, too. She made it very clear she was upset about not getting to go along this year.

I am not a hunter myself, but I have gone along to sit alone in a stand. I wanted to know what the experience is like, even if I have no interest in doing my part to manage the deer population. I brought my camera instead of a firearm, hoping to do some shooting of a different sort.

There are several lessons I hope my children will learn as they learn to hunt.

First, I hope they learn patience.

We live in an increasingly impatient society. We have become accustomed to instant gratification. And in those instances where we are forced to wait, we do so plaintively.

We talk tritely about patience all the time, but learning to "accept or tolerate delay, difficulty, or annoyance, without getting angry or upset" is truly important. Impatience results in undue stress and unhappiness.

Second, I hope they learn persistence.

Sometimes - oftentimes, in fact - we prepare carefully, work hard, do everything right, wait patiently and never get what we want. That's life and it can be very discouraging. But we can't let it stop us from putting our boots on, zipping our coats and trekking back out into the woods tomorrow. And if we aren't successful this year, then we must hold on to hope for next year.

Third, I hope they learn to value the experience of sitting quietly, alone with their thoughts.

Our world is loud and full of constant distraction. Our work, our commitments, our electronic devices and our 24/7 media don't give our brains time for observation, reflection and introspection.

Sure, I know many deer hunters' brains drift off to sleep while waiting in the stand, but this time of conscious brain rest is critical. According to a great review of recent research about brain rest in Scientific American, "Downtime replenishes the brain's stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both [achieving] our highest levels of performance and [forming] stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep [our] moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self."

Perhaps we all need a little more time in the tree stand.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 75 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children - Dan, 9, Monika, 7, and Daphne, 3. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.