What We Did Yesterday:
…Useful if you don’t take yourself too seriously. If you take yourself too seriously, you might be offended. Then again, if you’re the type of person that takes yourself too seriously and might be offended, I’m not sure why you read my blog in the first place!
Although, in all actual seriousness, this is how I first explained the differences in how people view deity to my kids (though I’ve added a few since then)–and it was something they understood easily.
Chickadee was quieter than usual Monday afternoon, but it wasn’t until dinner time until I found out that another little girl in her class “can’t be friends anymore” because Chickadee isn’t a Christian.
Le sigh. I knew this day would come eventually. But 2nd grade? Really?
What kind of asshole parent has their 8 year old so indoctrinated that they won’t play with kids that don’t do religion with Jesus? Totally not WWJD, the hypocrites. Can’t blame the little girl though, its the parents–what a smallness of spirit and an insecurity of the heart they must have.
Chickadee said the little girl asked her if she “could just pretend (to be Christian” to which Chickadee responded with “If I have to pretend to be something I’m not for you to be my friend, then you really aren’t my friend.” When I asked what about it (being sad), she said, “Yes, but Mo-om, I have to follow my Jiminy Cricket” (meaning her conscience).
As a parent, I’m elated that my child is independent enough to stand up for herself…and I’m just a little bit heartbroken that not only is she losing a friend over this, but that a parent would put their child in a position to have to give up a friend because they are different. That’s not how we have raised our children (but I can’t take all the credit–Chickadee is the kind of kid that takes on learning sign language in order to make friends with a little girl with a cochlear implant). I can’t even fathom parenting that would seek to separate children from making friends on the basis of being different–what makes us beautiful is what makes us different. And luckily that is not how most of her friends have been raised, since we are fortunate enough to live in a fairly diverse community (for the South).
But still. This rankles. And since I was concerned that this could become a problem for the rest of the school year, I spoke with her teacher after school on Tuesday to (as I put it to my mom) “to inform her of the situation, in case it became a problem”.
I think her teacher was more upset than I was. As far as her teacher is concerned, not wanting to be someone’s friend because they belong to a different religion is “no different than choosing not to be someone’s friend because of their skin color” (and patently unacceptable in her classroom). And, as far as the school is concerned, religion is something you talk about at home, not with your classmates.* Chickadee informed me after school today that her class “got talked to” about those two concepts….
One of the challenges of Pagan parenting (or any parenting that isn’t in line with social norms) is helping foster the sort of confidence that lets a child stand up to their peers while maintaining an integrity to themselves (a second challenge was keeping Daddy from going nuclear over the threat to his precious pixie punk princess).
I can only hope that in the years to come she retains this ability–she is going to need it on many more fronts than this one.
*This is an approach that I understand, and can appreciate, if only because I can respect that it is easier (with all of the other crap schools and teachers have to deal with) to just not encourage it. Although, I strongly think that schools should teach about world religions as a matter of fact, as part of world cultures, geography, history, and literature (the key words being teach , about, and fact)…something which is actually quite legal when done well , even in a public school setting. Religious literacy is a crucial piece of cultural literacy and failing to teach about the basic facts of religions is a failing of our society. With that having been said, I’m fairly sure that many US students would be failed (and I don’t mean in terms of grades) if if their schools did teach world religions (and I’m pretty sure this is a vicious cycle of ignorance).
In our family practice, we call the elements by “their S names”–Sea, Sky, Stone, and Spark. Sea because of its role in the water cycle and because it is a a significant part of our bioregion. Stone because it is another name for “rock” (the rock cycle!) and because it is the origin of sand and soil. Sky because its is mostly air, and the interaction between the different states of air here and there drive our weather and climate. And Spark because, IMO what has traditionally been called “fire” is really energy (and by energy, I mean solar energy, heat energy, chemical reaction energy, gravitational energy, electrical energy, etc). While Sea, Stone, and Sky can act and be acted upon, Spark is truly the only active element–Spark drives the waves and tides, the winds and currents, erosion and plate tectonics.
But, when we think about the qualities of the elements and how we can incorporate them into ourselves, many of the tradition (and not so traditional) associations and correspondences still hold true. Many of the not-at-all-traditional sources of these associations and correspondences can be quite enjoyable and instructive as well…
…which is why Avatar: The Last Air Bender (the cartoon, not the movie) is part of our “video grimoire” as Chickadee calls it.
(because who wouldn’t want to be a bender?)
Uncle Iroh: Fire is the element of power the people of the fire nation have desire and will and the energy to achieve what they want.
Earth is the element of substance the people of the earth kingdom are diverse and strong, they are persistent and enduring.
Air is the element of freedom. The air nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns and found peace and freedom. Also, they apparently had pretty good senses of humor.
Water is the element of change. The people of the water tribe are capable of adapting to many things. They have a deep sense of community and love that holds them together through anything.
Prince Zucho: Why are you telling me these things?
Uncle Iroh: It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If we take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others, the other elements and the other nations will help you become whole.
from Avatar: The Last Airbender; Season 2, episode 9, around the 13 minute mark