Sunday, March 7, 2021

Finding Yourself Again After the Kids are Grown

Raising children is a lot of work. From getting ready for school to meals to after school activities to homework to bedtime, there is not a lot of wiggle room in most schedules to find downtime as a family let alone for us as adults. Raising children in a pagan/polytheist household is even more work, because most of us have to provide our own religious education to our children. I used to covet the programs at other churches, especially the ones where someone qualified to work with children would whisk yours away so you could attend the adult services and feed your own spirit while they learned about faith practices. 

Sadly, most pagan groups do not have the capacity to provide childrens lessons even now, so most parents have three basic options: hold a separate service at home for each high day that is child-friendly, bring the kids to the adult high day and hope for the best, or leave the kids at home and attend the high day without them. I admit that I have done all three of these depending on what was happening in my life. As a single mom, I was very fortunate to have a series of groves within a day trip who fully supported me bringing my kids to our events and helping (sometimes A LOT) so I could sing.  As more families began attending our events, we were able to provide kid-specific content, but by this time, mine were quite a bit older than the others. This often left them as helpers, which was a lot of fun, though not entirely educational in terms of developing their religious path. Grove events were inherently social for them, and I am grateful they had this outlet. 

Most of the "education" I provided for them involved storytime and outdoor activities. We read all sorts of myths from a host of hearth cultures, sang songs, tried fun recipes, and took a lot of hikes. We would try to name birds and trees (which was easier when our grove naturalist came with us!) and often hold mini-rituals of offering while we were miles into some path in a metropark. It was pretty unstructured, and I know I could have done more, but I am at peace with what I showed them. I remember the first time we were in a park and they picked up trash unprompted. It had become such a routine part of our trips to the playground that they just began doing it--even now they can't walk by a can or wrapper without picking it up and placing it in a trashcan. They also had a hand in "shaming" some of our guests through recycling by example. My autistic son used to pick their soda cans out of the trash, place them into the recycling bin, and say, "you're welcome." I always told him "thank you" when he placed his recyclables in the correct bin, so he always said, "you're welcome" when placing items in. Even if his motivation was more "this is what we do with these types of items" instead of "we do this with these items because it's good for the Earth," his actions were consistent and resulted in positive change among those around him. 

But, I digress. This was supposed to be about me.

I was recently asked how I went about redefining my own spiritual path as my kids grew older, more independent, and eventually moved out of the house. At first, I didn't have a solid answer. Being pagan is a part of who I am, of how I move through the world, so when I was parenting, I was also paganing. Even now, when I am working, I am paganing. When I am socializing, I am paganing. When I am relaxing and taking time for myself, I am paganing then, too. For me, I was able to "redefine" myself by filling the time that freed up as they began entertaining themselves. Being a Bard and aspiring Initiate and Priest, it was easy to fill those gaps, because I knew what I wanted to do. I had goals! 

I guess that is my advice: set goals for yourself. The hardest part about having your kids out of the house, those little monsters who made a mess and ate all your food while they stole your heart, is filling the time once reserved for them. Kids require a tremendous amount of time and energy, and when that outlet is no longer there, our best way forward is to find other outlets. Your goal might be simple like trying three new things, or hard like learning to play an instrument. You may set a goal to finally get to that stack of books, to work on creating a new daily devotional that isn't kid-friendly, and so on. What do you want to do? As you work toward answering this question, the becoming and finding yourself will happen on its own.

If you don't have kids and are worried about how they will change your life, including your spiritual path, you can stop worrying. They will change everything, including your spiritual path. And it will be some of the best changes you've ever made. 

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