Monday, September 23, 2013
S is for Small Pagans
There are almost as many opinions about parenting and Paganism in the Pagan community as their are Pagans! Now that's a mouthful - but it's true. With each person, comes a different religious background, a different upbringing, and a different attitude towards their childhood religious experiences.
I've met many Pagans who are refusing to raise their children in their own religion, many because of bad experiences having been raised in fundamentalist Christian households. I can understand the worry that these people have. Having been indoctrinated in a religion as a child, that's the last thing they want to do to their own children. It's something that I fear for my kiddos - I don't want to dictate their beliefs, or tell them how to represent themselves to others. They deserve the ability to decide for themselves.
However, I am of the opinion that a tabula rasa is not the best way to go about choosing a religion or spiritual path. I believe it would be doing my children a great disservice to have them grow up and enter the public sphere without any knowledge of the many different beliefs the people around them hold. We talk about Jesus occasionally, we celebrate Muslim holidays, and I generally try to give a small education on most of the major world religions. But, it's a big step from education about a variety of religions to educating a child about your religion.
I feel it's important for children to not only be educated in religion, but to also experience religious community. For a child growing up without that, it's awfully easy for one of the more evangelistic religions to jump in with the promise of unconditional love and community - not that I'd be unwilling to accept it if one of my children chose Christianity, but I want it to be an honest and informed choice, not something they turn to because they don't have a spiritual community.
Which brings me to my final point - for Pagans with kids who want their children raised in their religion, there are some hurdles in place. Granted, I've never been to a big festival with a dedicated and organized kid area, but in my experiences with a few area groups, there's a distinct lack of kid stuff. It's not that they aren't welcome - everyone is always very friendly and seems happy to see them at gatherings - but there's nothing for them. Children are often welcomed at ritual, which is great, and I appreciate it; but it's not exactly easy for them. It's like asking a kid to sit through a church service, which is tricky at the best of times. Kids like to move, to talk, and they don't like standing around and listening to other people go on! Other events have an area with kid activities, or let kids play while the ritual goes on; but then they're not having any sort of spiritual experience.
I think what a few larger Pagan groups really need is a time for children - small children who just can't be expected to sit through and understand adult ritual - to have their own spiritual space and experience. I've been working on a ritual script that's just about ready to test out with my own kiddos; and after I've refined it a bit, I'd really like to invite some of the local Pagan children to come and enjoy it with us. But having a group of small Pagans is contingent on having a group of Pagan parents who want their children educated in the basics of Pagan religion.
Reading back through this, my writing may be coming off as judge-y of other parents who choose not to raise their children in a Pagan religion. To clarify, I think every parent has the right to raise their child exactly how they feel is best - I'm just lamenting a small gap in support for parents who do want to raise their children in their traditions.