There’s a series of blog posts over at Patheos on passing along one’s faith to kids or a younger generation. I’ve really enjoyed reading the different perspectives. As I’ve got two kids of my own, ages 5 and 2.5, here are my two cents.
My husband, Adam, and I are raising our kids in a Pagan household. I don’t say that we are raising the kids as Pagans, or to be Pagans, but Adam and I run our house in a certain way, practice in a certain way, and celebrate in a certain way – a rather hodge podge, but decidedly Pagan way. The kids see us and hear us, and kids absorb what surrounds them.
Many Pagans were raised Christian and have issues with the indoctrination of their upbringing. Adam was raised Christian and it’s certainly had a detrimental impact on his life. I was raised secular, with no religion of any sort, really. My kids get the best of all worlds, I think. They get the knowledge and respect of world religions (thanks to having a religions studies scholar for a mother); they get the flexibility and ‘hands off’ attitude that worked for me; they get the guidance that their parents can provide and can witness in their parents’ practices; they get some semblance of tradition that they can either hang on to or choose to reject as they grow older.
Adam and I have no faith to pass down. It’s not about faith. We are passing along tools, values, and lore (as it is appropriate, and much of Feri lore is not at this point). Does this mean that we talk about the gods as archetypes or myths? No. As P Sufenas Virius Lupus suggests, if the gods are good enough for the grown ups, surely they are good enough for the kids? I agree. The kids see that mama and papa honor Ganesh (we have statues in nearly every room!). The kids know of several of mama’s gods and several of papa’s. They are welcome to honor – or not – as they see fit.
Much of what we pass down is based on expediency: does it work? do you experience it? Why worship a deity if you don’t feel like you’ve got a relationship? We talk about this and we talk about how to forge relationship with deity, the Land, or other spirits. If our kids grow up and feel that they’ve experienced nothing of meaning, so be it. Maybe they grow up and Jesus speaks to them, so be it.
Right now, at 5, we’re working on ‘controlling all our parts.’ This involves a lot of listening: what does your body tell you? What do you need? How are you feeling? What else do you sense? I use the word ‘control’ here, not because our triple souls need to be controlled, but because my 5-year-old struggles to keep his hands to himself (and every other body part) and keeping his parts in check is part of controlling his hands. We have worked on meditation and deep breathing. It’s something we started with both kids when they were around 18 months, with limited success, but you have to start young! Sometimes my son sits for 90 seconds at a time and practices his meditation. You gotta start somewhere!
We’ve also worked on raising energy while meditating. I’ve walked him through a couple of very short guided meditations. Then we talk about what he experienced. It’s fascinating to hear what he’s experiencing and how he connects that his regular day existence. For example, after one of the first meditations on raising a ball of light in his center, he then asked if he could create a spirit outside himself that would do his bidding. Could I teach him that?? I was floored at that connection, because yes, it is possible! However, I’ve never done that, and he needs to master sitting still first.
The kids see their parents sitting regularly, sometimes chanting, sometimes giving offerings, lighting candles and incense, and sometimes creating spells or reading tarot. Occasionally I’ll let one or both of the kids watch – sometimes because I’m doing something very simple that they won’t disrupt and sometimes because if I don’t have them with me I won’t get another chance that day to do my offering or whatnot. I’ve embraced that I may have pujas that are more chaotic than others, and that sometimes there just won’t be meditation, only a bow and an offering.
Adam and I are slowly creating holidays that reflect our deities, our experiences with Place and the Wheel of the Year, and the rhythms of our family. So far, Samhain/Halloween and Yule/Christmas are the big holidays of the year. There are other ones, scattered through out the year. Sometimes the kids are really interested and other times they couldn’t be bothered. I think that’s pretty normal, and there is very little pressure for them to be involved. But they see the grown ups doing it.
Can you see the theme here? The kids see what we do and can participate as they desire. There is no coercion, but I won’t say there isn’t any indoctrination. The kids hear what the grown ups talk about, and in our house it is not unusual to hear an hour-long discussion on tarot in a car ride to Seattle, or hear discussions of magic at the dinner table, or how different branches of Buddhism have different meditation techniques as we’re getting ready for bed.
These actions reflect our values. We support these values – of experience, of practice, of finding ways to communicate with others (whether human, spirit or other), of creativity – by surrounding ourselves with others who share similar values, even if they express them differently. We read and watch things* that encourage these values as well, and we talk about them.
So yeah, we are passing along our traditions, but they are traditions that are unfolding. Neither Adam nor I are initiated into anything. We’re both learning as we go. This too is valuable for our kids to witness. Not all of our tools or practices are appropriate for little kids. We are treading each age and stage carefully as we come to it. Ask me in another 5 years how we’re passing along our traditions and I’m sure I’ll have a different set of answers.
*Books and things that we particularly love for our kids:
Novels: The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
The Sea of Trolls – Nancy Farmer
Loads of fairy tales
Comic books and cartoons:
Avatar: The Last Airbender
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Any and everything by Hiyao Miyazaki (holding off on Princess Mononoke until the kids are older)