Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Neopagan Children

I have not been quiet about my decision to join ADF. It is changing me already. But this decision, and my subsequent divulging, has lead to some very telling questions from my friends and family. The utmost important question that I have been asked so far is, “so, what are you teaching your children?”

Being a parent, no matter your religion, is hard. There are many points to consider as your children get older involving more and more complex issues. Raising my children in a neo-pagan household has not been a difficult decision. Effective parenting, to me, has been best achieved through leading by example. There are three basic principles I am teaching my children, and everything else has seemed to fall into place. Most of this, they don’t even know they are learning, because this is how we live our lives, daily.

Firstly, I am teaching my children to respect themselves; their bodies and their minds. They eat healthy foods, in proper proportions. Snacks are included in this. I see no reason to feed my children sugar for snack time. Apple slices with peanut butter are a preferred snack at my house. They go to bed at the same time every night. Part of respecting your body is getting enough rest. They also get exercise every day—even when it is raining. There are many indoor games you can play with your children to allow them to stretch and get moving. They don’t watch hours of television or play hours of video games. They read—oftentimes just for fun! We have arts and crafts time, and we cook. We spend time as a family learning to share the responsibilities of caring for a household. They are also learning the importance of working through problems, and trying new things, even if they appear hard at first. You never know what you are capable of unless you try! Much of this falls into the categories of moderation—not an easy virtue to teach children, fertility and perseverance.

Next, I am teaching my children to respect others. They are not to participate in name-calling. There is never any excuse for physical violence. They are to remember their “pleases” and “thank yous.” They take turns, and they don’t cheat. They treat others the way they hope other people will treat them: this means trying to use their nice voices, even when they are angry. They are also learning to share and to make sure they have enough for everyone, every time we have guests at snack time. In this way, I am teaching them hospitality. I am also teaching them patience—waiting without getting mad, as an essential virtue that I quite often find lacking in the world at large.

And finally, I am teaching them to respect the Kindred. They may not know them by this name, but they will learn in time. It is quite a complex system, and many adults still have a hard time with it. They recycle, because we care about the plants and animals. They don’t litter, either. They say hello to the Nature Spirits when we are out. We have begun working with the deities, and this mainly means thanking them (by name if we can remember it!) for the blessings we receive each day. I am teaching them to be grateful for what we have. We are just beginning ancestors, since ghosts can be a scary thing to a small child. We did leave a cup of coffee for my Father next to his ashes on Father's Day. They are getting there. We take time to remember the experiences they have had, and we reflect on what the best thing to do would have been, or how they did the right thing and it all worked out. We look for things they forgot to think about the first time through and talk about how remembering those things might have helped them at the time. In this way, I am teaching them the practical side of vision. Hopefully, wisdom will come as they age.

I do not require my children to participate in any of the rites that I do. Some of them I do not bring to their attention so that I can get some “adult work” done. There are things that are fun, and there are things that are serious. Some of the things we do, they understand, and some, they will understand in time. Piety calls me to help them do. They will learn the whys and the whos and everything in between when they are ready. It takes a lot of courage to live life with good ethics. Sometimes, the easiest thing is not the right thing to do.

I am not expecting them to be perfect little "Druid Angels." I know that they are kids, and I hope they are having fun. In my house, and unfortunately nowhere else, I am allowed to mandate ethics. I am allowed to teach my children to live their lives in a way that is healthy and pleasing to themselves, to the people around them, and to the Kindred. They really are good kids, and I am proud of them. As a parent, I hope to expose them to the rewards and benefits of following this path that is so very dear to me. But in the end, I will allow my children to follow whatever path they decide is best for them—which is why I am teaching them, above all else, tolerance.

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