Today I came across this post by a Heathen mother of two: Parenting: Making Faith Choices for Our Children. While I personally prefer not to use to use the word "faith" (for very specific semantic reasons), the article & its topic was perfect for helping me put my thoughts together for the "parenting" piece of the Samhain puzzle. Her discussion begins like so:
"Friday Morning I had a series of tweets back and forth with someone that has gotten me thinking. The idea was put forth that raising children in the Pagan faith is wrong because it is forcing faith on them...I cast my comment into the already well filled list of responses. It looked, to some degree, like this:
To me my faith is entirely about community and to isolate my children from this is completely wrong. Heathenry is a pretty down earth practice, it’s a faith of community, family and relationships at it’s heart..."
Yesterday I helped lead a co-created Samhain ritual & celebration which was designed for & worked by the children. I think most Pagan parents grapple with whether or not, or how much to expose of their religion to their children. I do. This is fair, especially since so many Pagans came from an upbringing where they felt religion was forced upon them. Of course, there is also the concern over what social complications it might create for them.
However, I think we need to ask ourselves: If we do not share our religion with our children, will ours forever be a religion of converts? If so, are we comfortable with that?
Children are community too. There is a richness of tradition that can be developed by including the young ones in our observances. I think this can be done delicately, including children when they are amenable & thus maintaining the integrity of our communities as whole, multi-generational organisms.
At yesterday's event, all the children were offered the opportunity to participate -- some did, some did not. They were all assured their choice was the right one. They were also told they could change their mind at any time.
The focus of our ritual was on the elementals & the changing seasons, not complex concepts of the divine, ancestors or death. It was designed this way to engage them in a concrete celebration of the natural world. This is the angle that I tend to take with my own child (the one who is old enough to be invited to participate), offering him open-ended ideas & observations, leaving him to discover, intuit, determine the rest for himself.
Our community is very diverse & includes Asatru/Heathens, Hellenics, Vedics, Druids, Wiccans, Witches, Pantheists, Discordians & many other permutations of Paganism. I am sure that each child's parent/s have differing feelings about how & to what extent to share, or not share religion. As a community with so many diverse paths, we need to focus on values. Shared values.
What we all share in our community is a reverence for our natural world. This is an ethic that we can engender in the children without ambivalence. The values of caring for our planet & being aware of the cycles of nature are basic. I feel we can give this to the children without fear of feeling like proselytisers. It is the role of every parent & community to instill core values -- wouldn't respect for our shared planet qualify among them?
There are ways to engage children, teach them, nurture them, share with them what we value, without preaching or forcing the issue. If we don't teach them, they will get their values somewhere else (i.e., television, the neighbors, peers). Ultimately, the decision of religion is their own to make, but hopefully the core values will remain with them always. If you are opposed to that, you might need to examine the source of your objections.
May you be true to yourself, your kin & your community. Honor your values as you honor that which you hold most dear. If you look closely, you will see they are one in the same.