Parents, lend me your ears...

The biggest problems we as Pagan parents face are those faced by parents of all religious paths:  We want our kids to grow up healthy, happy, do well in school and be good citizens.  To us this also means being a good citizen of the Earth and respecting life, whatever its form.  Nothing makes me feel more like I'm doing my job than when Rainbowchild chases a spider into a container and carefully takes it outside where it belongs rather than killing it.  When I was growing up spiders were just pests and were squashed on sight.  I never thought of spiders as Arachne's children, or been taught that it hurts a tree to carve initials into it for that matter.

Another problem parents of any minority religion faces is that of addressing religious discrimination in school.  We're all familiar with the horror stories of children being picked on or ridiculed because they are Jewish, Moslem or Pagan.  I'm blessed by living in a town that although almost entirely Christian, seems to be more tolerant than a lot of places I've read about.  My daughters report that they discuss religion with their friends all the time, and frequently bring home questions about one Bible story or another they've heard about from one of their buddies.  They also have complained about the selection of music for the annual Christmas pageant at school. but grinned when I pointed out that "Deck the Halls" was Pagan.  (Sometimes you just have to make compromises!)  I try to be tolerant and respect others' religious paths, and expect others to do the same for mine.  After all, that's covered by both the Wiccan Rede and the Golden Rule.

The most important thing we can and should do for our kids where discrimination is concerned is be sure they understand they have the right to their religious beliefs.  If they are pressured about them, we need to know and need to act to stop it.  I would no more allow someone to bash my kids for their beliefs than I would be disrespectful of others' beliefs.  I may not personally agree with them, but I respect their right to their faith.  Do this by talking to your children.  They should feel comfortable talking to you on any subject anyway, if you're doing your job as a parent.

Good parenting also involves listening to your kids.  Sometimes this means reading between the lines, as the time Rain once began trying to avoid school only about a week into the new school year.  When questioned about problems with her teacher or other kids, she denied there was a problem, but much later in the year she opened up and began telling stories about how this supposed "teacher" would call kids in her class "stupid" or yell at them.  She got through the year okay, but I wished several times I'd gone and had her moved to a classroom where someone who had some business teaching could have spared her that experience.  Needless to say, I made sure Willow didn't get stuck with the same teacher when she entered second grade.

Most of the time listening means more in the conventional sense, by using your ears and that lump of grey stuff that connects them.  Not only can this prevent you from absent-mindedly saying "Okay" when the kids ask if they can paint the kitchen while you're reading the newspaper, it can also keep you from getting into conversations like the one I found myself in one evening:  We went to see the movie Titanic. I didn't want to go, but the girls begged and pleaded until they wore me down.  I was in the middle of what was beginning to look like a pretty nasty divorce and the last thing I wanted to do was sit through some 3 hour tearjerker.  Since my kids were 7 and 9 years old at the time, I was also convinced that all they wanted to do was to see the big boat sink.

We went anyway, and it turned out we all sat there spellbound by the story and enjoyed it thoroughly. On the way home, Rain and I were talking about it as Willow dozed in the back seat.  As I passed my usual turn in order to stop by a mini-mart, I commented that I was pretty amazed that they had enjoyed such a long "grown-up" movie and I guessed that they were growing up faster than I'd realized.  That's when I heard Rainbowchild say "We're gonna menstruate early."

Not batting an eye, but amazed that she knew the word to use it in a sentence, I said, "You know, I think you may be right.  You are beginning to show some of the secondary sexual characteristics; you're losing the "baby fat" and your hips are beginning to broaden a bit..."  After a moment she said, "Daddy, what are you talking about?!"  That's when I turned down the music in the car and asked her what she'd said in the first place, and she replied, "I said, 'We're not on Main Street, are we?'"

I almost had to pull the car over, I laughed so hard!  So listen to your kids; it will not only make them more comfortable talking, but can save you an embarrassing moment!

Oakdancer  2/2/99

[Note:  this was originally the intro to the Pagan Parenting page.  It was too long. *g*]


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