**This was originally posted on Parents Space, but I wanted to have it on my regular blog. I’ve since stopped posting for Parents Space because it is too much for me, but do check them out.**
I’ve got the divine on my mind today, which is only natural seeing as how the Christian world just experienced another Easter season. I, although a member of a predominantly Christian society, am not one and I am part of what can only be described as an inter-faith family. I have identified, since adolescence, as Wiccan, but lately have softened that a bit to the broader “Pagan” as I don’t observe much of the ritual that comes along with Wiccan practice.
My husband does not identify as anything other than scientific, but I would place him somewhere between atheist and agnostic. Although I cannot get my husband to marvel, in anyway, at the sacred divinity I see and feel present in our natural world, we have both agreed to join the local Unitarian Universalist congregation. Although we can’t seem to agree that divine/holy/spiritual/sacred really exists, we can both agree that the value systems found in communities of faith are beneficial to the human condition. This is the starting point for the burgeoning spiritual life in our family.
During Easter service we had the opportunity to participate in the Baby Dedication ceremony held by our congregation. This was a wonderful way to have our toddler welcomed into this community of faith and for the congregation to show it’s support of each family on its journey of child-rearing. At the close of the ceremony, we were each given a book, “The Gift of Faith: Tending the Spiritual Lives of Children” by Jeanne Harrison Nieuwejaar. This was very exciting for me because I feel rather adrift as a parent trying to raise a child with a sense a spirituality without the typical framework of a mainstream, monotheistic belief system. Trust me, there is no end of “pagan parenting” resources out there, but without a fellowship of others to walk the path with, reading a book is not going to cut it. Having a book that is supported by our congregation means that there will be others following a similar path that can support the development of a spiritual life in our family. My most trying point will likely be getting my husband involved beyond simply attending Sunday service.
I read a chapter of this book after we got home from church and was immediately struck by how spiritual life does not simply happen, you must work it into your daily life. Granted, I knew this, but it was not something that I had reflected on in quite some time. If I desire for my children to have an understanding of the divine and sacred, I must find ways to instill this in them. I grew up celebrating Christian holidays just like most everyone I know, but my family of origin did not put much stock in organized religion. I learned that the men in my family saw “God’s Church” as the forest and my paternal grandfather would regularly take me down to talk with Mr. River. This is likely where the first stirrings of my pagan path began. I learned of making the divine a part of my daily life through church attendance with my maternal grandmother, but it was not so many years before my personal philosophy fell out of line with her Southern Baptist congregation. There rest of my spiritual education has been self-taught and I am still learning.
These days, I am finding my spirituality more through mindfulness and being in nature, and much less through ritual. However, I think that I need to start finding some spiritual ritual to bring into our family life. Ritual is grounding, comforting and can often provide a mental transformation that can allow an individual to feel more attuned to the spiritual. Also, young children can understand ritual (read: routine) where they can’t understand abstract concepts like mindfulness or the presence of god in the sunbeams. Now, I find myself confronted by a new challenge: how on earth am I to create a meaningful ritual for our family?!? There are so many things to consider, for instance: Should it be daily? Weekly? Monthly? Will it involve prayer? Should there be a specific place in our home for the ritual? How do I frame it (honoring god, ancestors, nature, etcetera)? Will there be props? And I’m sure I will encounter other questions as I begin this process.
I am rather intimidated by this new task, but I understand the importance cultivating spirituality in my children. In addition to my own belief in its value, there is ample science to affirm this belief that children that have a spiritual life are more successful/resilient/well-adjusted than those that do not. I undertake this task with some trepidation, but also a bit of excitement. It will be incredibly satisfying to know that my husband and I are able to cultivate a sense of spirituality in our children with a ritual that we have created just for our family.