By Kira Nuit
There’s this wonderful stage of parenting, I’m told, where your child(ren) have good levels of cognition, empathy, dexterity, and communication skills. Many things become possible, from watching some of your favorite movies together to doing modest rituals. I have a two year-old; this is not that time. However, there are still spiritual things we can do together, and I think it’s important to explore them. I hope to share my spirituality with her during our whole lives (or at least in the years I have before she judges everything about me and my life choices as profoundly uncool).
Make Offerings. Many of us make offerings as part of our devotional practices; it’s easy to include a child in this. It provides a great opportunity to tell the stories of the Gods/Allies/Ancestors/Land Spirits/Fair Folk with whom you have these relationships. She may be able to communicate things to you about the energies she perceives that will deepen your own relationships with these entities. She may also make the practices her own by inventing her own stories. My daughter joins me in the formal offerings of water and blessings to the Ancestors and is finally dextrous enough to pour the water herself. We also do informal, in-the-moment offerings (far more frequently than I did before she came along). You can offer any object to any entity: we offer picnic leavings to the earth or the animals, dandelion seeds to the wind, leaf boats to the river, sticks and stones to the fire.
Say Grace. The habits you establish now will stick for a while. (Or, as I like to joke, “Don’t do anything with/for a toddler that you aren’t willing to do a thousand more times.”) We made up a simple meal blessing ritual for our family: we light a candle, say the same prayer, and finish with “itadakimasu” because we like the sentiment and also my child watches anime. She can’t say the blessing yet, but she never forgets that we’re supposed to, and she insists that everyone be seated before we begin. My parents ingrained the habit of saying grace in me, so I know that this moment of gratitude and thanksgiving has the chance of remaining a lifelong behavior.
Provide an Ally. In our case, I introduced her to her to her Godsoul, which we call her “special bird.” I described it as a part of her — though I’m sure she won’t catch that nuance until later – that will always listen to her and help her make good choices. She knows that it speaks in a quiet voice and she must be still to hear it. She will probably have other Allies as she gets older, Guardians and Guides. I imagine that I will make the initial contacts for her, until she’s old enough to find them herself.
Take Trance Journeys. Create a nightly meditation. (Ours is inspired by Starbright Meditations for Children.) This is your opportunity to teach your child a relaxation exercise to wind down for sleep, to introduce allies, and to set your child’s feet on the way to happy dreams. The language we use at night informs the way we explain things during the day, and events during the day turn up in our meditations at night. It’s also a great time to connect with each other.
Make Altars. This point seems the most obvious to me, but it bears mentioning. Kids this age love tactile pursuits and get a lot out of having a special place that is theirs. A low table serves this purpose well. After collecting “treasures” during walks or outings, the child can place them as desired and interact with them at will. If a parent models sitting at an altar for a time while being quiet, saying prayers, or singing songs, the child will often mimic this behavior and then come up with her own innovations. It’s play for her, but one that might later inform her model of the universe and the ways she engages with it.
What have you done with your small children?
Kira Nuit is a writer, geek, textile artist, witch and mother. She strives to build a simple and fulfilling life that integrates all her parts — which includes figuring out how to provide excellent care for her toddling daughter while also bathing regularly. She writes about it at Earth Mama Prime.