I gather that the impulse to lie to children is widespread. All the plots in Harry Potter depend heavily on it with the ‘good’ adults doing it at least as much as the ‘evil’ ones do. It comes up plenty of other places too. No, fiction is not real life, but the ideas that make sense in fiction do so because they have real life relevance. As a parent I’m familiar enough with the desire to be thought well of by my child. Who wouldn’t want that? There is also the terrible desire to want the world to be a good, fair and lovely place for him, and not to want to have to tell him how awful things can be out there.
It’s normal to lie to children and tell them that everything is going to be fine, even when we’re pretty certain it’s not. (Think about how Umbridge behaves around defence against the dark arts issues). Sooner or later the child grows up and gets some experiences that don’t sit right with the lovely, safe world you wanted to create for them. I remember that transition as not only uncomfortable, but undermining my trust in my parents. Many children are smart and alert enough to pick up on the standard lies, and I doubt there’s much comfort to be had in feeling your parents (or Umbridge for that matter) aren’t willing to be straight with you. Lying to them is more about our comfort than theirs, all too often.
This is one of those issues where what is normal conflicts with what is right. Lie to your children and no one will think the less of you. We lie to ourselves alongside it, we say ‘it’ll be better for little Johnny this way’ when really it will be easier for us. (Think about Snape, Dumbledore, Sirius Black). We can so easily project our motives, needs and feelings onto our own children and then go after the things that will serve those needs, whilst telling ourselves what excellent parents we are (Sirius) . I try very hard to make sure I’m not doing that. But then, the idea that our children should come first in all things is culturally ingrained – especially for women, I think. (Harry Potter’s mother personifies this). Saying ‘I want this for me’ feels a lot less comfortable than pretending to be doing it for them and there’s a lot of cultural encouragement to go about this the wrong way as a consequence.
I still carry a feeling of affront that the world is not a fair place, people in authority cannot be trusted (Ministry for magic), and poetic justice seldom shows up. I know most ugly ducklings do not get to be swans (even if Hermione does), and that wicked stepmothers are not reliably thwarted by the direct consequences of their own evil actions. I grew up with all the stories about what the world should be like – as did most people. What I needed was a little more Han Solo saying ‘life isn’t fair, Princess’ and The Goblin King’s observations on the subject: I wonder what your basis for comparison is?
I’ve run into people along the way who are horrified by my determination to be honest with my child. He knows I’m not perfect. He also has an awareness that it’s not all about him. He is not Harry Potter. I will put him first more often than not, but I have limits and he knows about them. He doesn’t expect the world to revolve around him, nor is he waiting for a patronus to come out of a lamp and grant all his wishes. There are times when we have the news on, or are talking about badgers, or the state of the world when I would give anything to be able to reassure him that it’s all going to be fine. He wouldn’t believe me if I did. He pays too much attention. I’d rather have his earned trust than mislead him.
I cannot give my child the world he deserves, where justice shows up with a wand if all else fails, where happily ever after is pretty much a given and good things eventually find their way to good people. He’s made me acutely aware that I can, and should, do more to try and make that a reality. Unlike fiction, reality does not produce tidy story lines and coherent resolutions. One thing Harry Potter reminds me, is how powerless kids feel when you lie to them, how angry and disrespected (the entirety of book 5). I want to do something different.
Tag Archives: parenting
Most of the time, parenting isn’t excessively difficult. Children progress in coherent, predictable ways from one day to the next as skills evolve, understanding grows, bodies adapt and so forth. Every so often there’s a sudden leap, and the impossible becomes easy, the unthinkable becomes the thought. These are always startling and tend to come without any kind of warning.
A lot of it has to do with how the human brain develops when we’re young. My grasp of the technicals isn’t superb but the gist is that the brain has physical structures, and the way in which paths are formed between brain cells shapes how we are able to think. Child development psychology flags up that there are some things young children just aren’t capable of thinking about. Then the brain changes, and *ping* you’re on a new level. It can be startling to watch. Some of the manifestations are simple – going from sky as blue line across the top of a picture to a sense of how objects exist in relation to each other is one of those transitions, but not a challenging one.
Sudden shifts in the way a child is capable of thinking are also very exciting times. As adults we tend to get this less, our brain growth has mostly settled. Perhaps more importantly, we don’t seek it. When allowed to develop naturally, children are voracious in their quest for information. They want to know everything about everything. How we support and teach them inform whether than continues or not. A child who hears ‘because I said so’ and ‘because it just is’ will learn not to bother to ask. The child for whom learning is turned into a miserable chore won’t stay inspired to learn, that natural hunger squashed. And of course children whose hunger for input is fed by television and computer games, who get a steady diet of empty noise and meaningless drivel by way of content, cannot develop much. I recognise that there is educational content out there, but when the aim is to pacify the child and make them easy to look after, the effect is…. Pacification.
From what I can tell by observing my son, and what I remember of the process myself, the sudden brain leaps don’t really register. You forget that you couldn’t think that way before, the new way becomes natural so quickly and there’s not much incentive to question it. Sometimes, you don’t notice how much your own capacity to think has changed. As adults, we’re both less likely to change, and more likely to notice it. Revolution between the ears is a very big deal once you’re physically mature. It is possible, though.
How we think, and the structures we have physically in our brains, develops over time and with use. The person who devotes a lot of time to music does, I gather, have a visibly different brain structure to someone who doesn’t. What we do with our brains shapes what we are able to do, informs what comes easily, determines where we might go next. Anyone who dedicates themselves to a spiritual path, or a path of personal growth, is very precisely working to keep their brain developing.
There are a great many people out there I could wish a mental revolution upon. I wish they could change with the sudden explosion of insight that hits my child every now and then. There are so many people who seem to have stopped thinking, questioning, wondering and growing far too early, settling into the comfort of their own narrow world view and filtering out everything that doesn’t fit. Far too many of them have also taken up careers in politics. But in adults, Road to Damascus moments are few and far between. Grand epiphanies don’t turn up unsought, eureka moments will not come to the person who wasn’t looking for an answer in the first place.
Brains are such fabulous, mysterious, exciting things. I just wish people would notice that more, celebrate the wonder that is us a bit more, think a bit more…
All fledglings must at some point leave the nest. My son was telling me this morning that when it is time for bear cubs to go it alone, the mother bear chases them up a tree and then abandons them. He said he’s glad he isn’t a bear! For him, it’ll be a slower, more gentle process over the next eight years or so, but it is a process we have most definitely started. This week he’s away on a residential thing with the school, having adventures. By slow degrees, he will learn to leave the nest and fend for himself. My definition of being a successful parent is that I will get him to the point where he doesn’t really need me anymore.
There is a lot of similarity between teaching and parenting in this regard. Getting it right means getting them to the point where you wave them goodbye and watch them strike out into the world. Students and offspring alike must not be under your sheltering wing forever. The trouble is, keeping them there can be really tempting. It is very human to want to be wanted, to need to be needed. And so we can easily hang on to children, and students because we like the comfort of them being there and needing us. It can tempt us to hold back a few things, to not tell them everything, so that they still need us for a few bits and pieces. It’s not the right way to go.
In many ways students are easier, because they are more readily replaced. Most of us, on waving the newly adult offspring goodbye, are not going to go and create a whole new person to replace them with. Some of us will get a puppy instead. Students tend not to be around for so long in the first place – perhaps a few years. That makes the letting go easier, and if you’re any good as a teacher, the next one will turn up soon enough.
It can be tempting, with students, to take them on when they aren’t right for us, or to try and keep them once we find that we aren’t the teacher they need. Saying ‘there isn’t anything I can usefully teach you’ is hard. Having a whole flock of students feels like kudos, feeds the ego, helps us feel important and worthwhile. Pushing just one away feels like admitting defeat, or being a failure. It isn’t. Failure is keeping them when you can do them no good.
Of course once you’ve got a child, you’ve got a child and this is a very different scenario most of the time. It’s much less usual for a person to have to consider that they cannot parent the child they have in the best way. But it does happen. Seriously physically disabled children, or ones with profound learning difficulties can be more than it is feasible for a parent to manage. Sometimes what you need are professionals who do not have to manage things 24/7. I can’t begin to imagine how hard and painful a decision that must be to make though. There are the parents who fail so badly that social services intervene and tell them they can have no role in the child’s future. There are also the parents whose offspring reject them. That can happen at any stage in life, and as they get older, if we have messed up, they are more likely to flee from us.
What of the parent who tries to hang on to the child they are unable to properly take care of? We may feel every sympathy for them, may pity their problems, recognise their grief, but it’s not enough. Regardless of the age of the child, no amount of thinking you love them justifies trying to hang on to them when they really need to be somewhere else. It’s far easier to recognise when you aren’t the right teacher for the job than I imagine it must be to recognise that you aren’t the right parent for the job.
Getting trained as a teacher isn’t difficult, but how many of us are trained as parents, or know where to go for help when we can’t manage the workload? It’s one of those issues where I can see the problems all too clearly, and the solutions seem hard to imagine in the context of the kind of society we have.
I had one of those parent jobs this morning, the sort that you know is coming, but dread. There are so many things in this world that it is horrible to have to explain to a child. However, I don’t believe on fobbing them off with half-truths. Once a person is able to ask a question, they need to hear an answer. This morning it became necessary to point out that the world is not an inherently fair or just place, and that the people, bodies, institutions we should be able to rely on to treat us fairly, are not always reliable. It didn’t come as a shock to the lad, I think I was confirming what he’d already suspected, but it’s better to talk about these things.
So we talked about institutionalised racism, which he thinks is crazy because people are people and judging them on skin colour is stupid. Allow me a moment of happy pride over this. We talked about the history of laws, and where they come from. Because go back a few hundred years and in most of Europe, there wasn’t much legal protection for poor people against rich ones. The UK was better than average. We talked about the way in which the crimes of poor people still seem to be taken more seriously than the sneakier financial and environmental crimes of the wealthy. We didn’t get round to huge corporate tax dodgers, but we could have done. We talked about libel laws, and how your likelihood of being taken seriously depends on how rich and famous you are. To be poor and maligned is still to be maligned. It is a life no less damaged.
There are a frightening number of things around us that I can point to, to illustrate institutionalised stupidity and unfairness. Of course he needs to know, this is the world he is poised to inherit, the one he’s going to need to survive in. The odds are increasingly stacked against the poor. The desire of consumerism still gets priority over the needs of the environment.
What I feel is overwhelming shame. This is the world I get to pass on to my son. Ugly with corruption, cruelty, and systems that cannot be trusted to deliver fairness. And ok, most of this I have not created, or planned or supported in any way, but how much time have I spent trying to make it better? Not nearly enough. Every day there is something in the news where the short-sightedness, the inhumanity, the greed and horror of human choices shocks me. And no doubt my child too, because he’s listening. A bus full of people who, between them, didn’t have twenty pence to save a girl from a ten mile walk at three in the morning. She was attacked as a consequence, by a guy high on cocaine. The small evils we commit against each other on a daily basis go to make up such wrongs.
The latest one to be grating on my nerves is this: Plans that mothers who defy court orders over access to their children, be punished by having their passports taken away. On the grounds that it’s not fair to the child to be denied access to a parent. If a guy doesn’t want to have anything to do with his children, he’ll still have to contribute financially, but he can walk away. Never see them. There are no suggested sanctions to make reluctant fathers see their kids. It’s not a gender thing. Reverse who has the kids and it still holds up. We collectively abuse the parent who undertakes to do the parenting, and let the one who is disinterested do as they please. That’s no kind of fairness or justice.
The temptation is to keep my head down and not fight the many wrongs that I run into. The fear that I live with is that by protesting, I will draw adverse attention. What, after all, is to stop any of these systems from crushing me? If I call a government body out over unjust behaviour, what is to save me from unjust treatment at their hands? And yet, to stay silent, to refuse to notice, to keep my head down, is to tacitly support any wrong I turn a blind eye to. We have a conspiracy of silence. All of us. For the sake of a quiet life, an easy life. We don’t complain, we don’t draw attention to ourselves, we don’t invite the unfairness we know perfectly well is out there, to come round and pick on us for a change.
Dear children, this is the world we have contrived to make for you. We are poisoning it, and many of its structures are corrupt. Close your eyes and ears, pretend it’s all shiny and happy. Don’t look at anything that hurts. Play this game instead. Watch another TV program. When you get older, you can use alcohol to blot it all out.
And they all lived happily ever after.
I’ve never been interested in the kind of peace that comes from burying your head in the sand, or from accepting oppression. These things can look like peace, might even feel like it, but they aren’t true to my Druidic ideals and I try not to go there. That said, there are so many things I cannot fix and have to let go of, because if I took their absence of peace into me, I would go crazy.
It’s one of those curious ironies that the quest for meaningful peace can call for some serious bouts of equilibrium shattering. Steeping way outside my comfort zone seems to be a regular feature. I’ve had a dose of that already today, in the ongoing saga of trying to deal with things between my son and his father. This is not new. I’ve been trying to speak for my son all his life, to explain what he thinks and wants, to support him in getting where he needs to be. For me, this is intrinsic to parenting. How it works, varies, and depends a lot on how people see me. For some I am, or have been, the pushy, demanding mother, over reacting, over emotional, putting my own feelings onto my child and demanding attention through him. I mentioned dark reflections yesterday, and those words have been painfully hard to hear over the years. I’ve heard them from the child’s father, and the child’s father’s girlfriends, from teachers and other professionals. Arguably people who all had something to gain from disbelieving me. But I’ve also found plenty of teachers and other professionals who recognise my lad, understand how he feels, embrace and celebrate what makes him different, and do everything they can to enable him to flourish. It may not be a coincidence that I’ve never had any negative feedback about me, there.
The teacher who blamed me for my child’s distress belonged to a school that went on to send one boy to a special needs school for his behavioural issues, and did not recognise that the other child in the scenario had autism. He’s since got the much needed diagnosis. Maybe if they’d listened to my concerns rather than telling me I’m hysterical, three families would have had the support they needed, rather than leaving them to struggle unrecognised. Peace comes at a price, and often the price is a willingness to sacrifice peace. I’ve gone off at a tangent a bit here.
It’s very hard remaining peaceful, or working for peaceful outcomes when you are hearing things you do not want to hear. It’s easier to reject the message bearer, devalue or demonise them so that they can be safely ignored. It is not easy to take a good hard look at yourself, question your own motives and assumptions, and consider that you may be the one who got it wrong. Of course, in a scenario where one person will do just that, and the other cannot hear they are less than perfect, there tends to be a resultant culture of blame that has nothing to do with who is right, and everything to do with who is self critical and able to bend. In conflict situations, rare are the times when any of us couldn’t have done a better job, one way or another. Sometimes the better job would have been to leave sooner. There is a kind of peace that can be held by believing that you are never wrong and never need to change, but it’s a fragile, unhealthy peace that takes you further and further from consensus reality.
I wrote some words today. They are not new words. They are variations on words that I’ve been saying for all of my child’s life. This is what he needs, how he feels, what he wants. If those words were listened to, it would serve to help the person I like least in the world. But it would also help the child, and that matters more. The quest to bring peace into his life, brings serious disquiet and challenge into mine. But one day, he will reach the point of being old enough and wise enough not to need me to do this for him, and hopefully by then he’ll have enough of an example about what true peace looks like, what is worth fighting for, what should be forgiven and what is just human, that he can go out there and do a good job of things. Got to be worth a go, that.
I think that the art of nurturing is one of the most vital, rewarding and under celebrated things a person could set out to do. All of our lives will afford opportunities to develop this as a conscious, deliberate art, and by doing so we enable. A person who loves creativity but does not, for whatever reason, feel moved to create, can adopt nurturing as their art, and through that make the most stunning contributions. Most arts do not happen in isolation. Time, money, resources, space, publicity, feedback are all essential and rare is the aspiring creative person who doesn’t need some of that to come from outside.
Nurturing as an art form is not just about propping up creative people though. Gardening and tree planting are forms of nurturing the land, so is litter picking. Rescuing and healing animals is a nurturing art. Caring for the sick is a nurturing art. So is teaching, running events, library work. Raising children should be held up as an art that requires considerable dedication. No one is ‘just a parent’, if they are making any kind of effort, they are a practitioner of a most complex and demanding art form. Anything that we do that enables others to flourish, is part of the art of nurturing.
Making it more deliberate is not difficult. The easiest place to start is with praise or encouragement for whatever good stuff you see people doing. Be that a cleaning job, a fundraiser or a painting. Just saying ‘that’s brilliant, well done’ will help to sustain someone else in their work. Yoo don’t need pompoms and a tiny skirt to be a cheerleader, but most people need someone to cheer them on, to keep them believing that what they do is worth doing, and is valued. Being a good audience is a skill to nurture, knowing how to listen, how to ask good questions, when to applaud, both in a literal sense and a more metaphorical way.
Without people who create spaces and opportunities, far fewer people can grow or flourish. That might mean an after school club, adult education, running a poetry slam, or an open mike. It takes time, energy and skill to make an event, a class or some other nurturing space go well. One of the measures of having got it right is that people won’t even think about it. They’ll just be noticing all the stuff you’ve put centre stage. Often, to practice nurturing as an art, you need to be willing to stand back stage.
The other important consideration with nurturing in any form, is that you do not dictate the shape. It’s not about creating twenty clones of yourself, or one special person who can actually do what you wanted to do. If you mean to nurture, then those you enable have to be free to be what they are. No point planting potatoes and complaining to them when they do not produce rose flowers. It can be very tempting, with this kind of work, to go too far with the supporting so that it turns into directing, then ordering and demanding. When we nurture, we facilitate. The only thing you can want for yourself is the pleasure of seeing someone else take off, and maybe a little bit of kudos. But if you want to turn them into something specific, the most likely outcomes involves crushing them, destroying their potential or making them hate you. Even the people who turn up and say ‘teach me to do what you do’ will at some point need to take off in their own direction.
This is an art that calls for a lot of letting go, relinquishing desires to be reinforced or propped up by others. And if we do make a safe and nurturing nest for those who come to us, then we have to accept that one day they will need to leave it and strike out for themselves. The whole point of the nest is to get you ready for flying. It can hurt, watching them leave. It can feel like rejection. If they’re truly focused on taking the thing forward, whatever it is, it can feel like being left behind, abandoned. The person who takes up nurturing as their art knows not to cling at this moment. It’s all about taking pride in knowing that you aren’t needed now, and that’s as true for a parent as it is for a spiritual teacher, or someone providing a space to work in.
Nurturing as an art can very readily be practiced alongside other life arts, or the bardic arts, or just as a dedication to encouraging others and being generous with words. It can be a powerful calling in its own right, one that becomes the whole of your life and purpose. Someone who is good at it may make themselves almost invisible, but these are people too, and if you spot them, in the wings, behind the desk, holding it all together and making no fuss, remember that they could use some nurturing too and that this art is as worthy of your celebration as any other you encounter.
One of the most natural things for a mother, in any species, is to protect your offspring. Be it the mallard flying at seagulls to stop them eating her chicks, or the fox running to draw you away from her cubs, mothers protect. Millions of years of evolution, survival and instinct are behind us when we do it. Of course for the modern human mother, it’s not quite the same, but all the drives are still there. The urge to protect and defend can come out in all kinds of ways, some more helpful than others.
You can’t wrap a child in cotton wool and insulate them from all risk, harm, or danger. Not if you want them to grow up and be viable, independent adults. They need to learn which risks are worth taking. They need the space to run and play, which can mean falling off bikes, and out of trees. Bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes and often broken bones ensue from the natural process of growing up. Knowing when to hold them safely in the nest, and when to let them explore the rest of being alive, is hard. Apparently it doesn’t get all that much easier with practice.
I have heard it said that dads do not experience the protective urges in the same way and are better predisposed to support the child in the risk taking aspect of their development. This makes sense to me, and the idea that between two parents, or the wider culture of family and tribe, there should be balance between protection and support. Getting the child to cycle is usually a dad/uncle/granddad sort of job. It’s not to say men aren’t protective too, but I think they risk assess in very different ways.
There are things we cannot protect our children from as they grow. They will go out into the world and make their own mistakes. They will get hurt. Bad things will happen to them. We cannot individually make all the world as safe for them as we could when we were toddler-proofing the house. All we can do is equip them with stories, ideas, skills and confidence so that when the inevitable happens, and they hit something hard, they have the means to cope. And then try to be there if they need us to help them pick up the pieces. My son does not have a defensive layer of cynicism of apathy. He cares. I know that when he gets out there on his own, either the world will break his heart over and over again, or he will grow the kind of skin that doesn’t let him feel much. But he’s grown up with my shortage of skin, and he knows it can be lived with, and maybe he will dare to keep caring.
The hardest thing, is seeing something I cannot protect him from. However much I may want to be the tiger mother (he’s a tiger boy) there are things I cannot do for him, things I cannot get in front of him to shield him from. And I would. Seeing fear in a child’s eyes is an awful thing. Seeing deep emotional pain that you can’t take away, and knowing that the only possible way forwards means that those young shoulders have to lift a heavy burden, and there is no way to carry it for him. All that can be done is to give him words of love and support, to be there, to listen, to trust him, to remind him that he is a brave and bold sort of tiger and that he will come through. Nine is a very young age at which to be tested to your limits and beyond. It’s a very young age at which to have to stand up to adults, fight against a system and bear responsibility for the shape your future is going to take.
There are plenty of children who face far worse. The ones growing up in war zones, or who have to watch famine and disease kill their families. The ones who cannot do anything as their father beats their mother. The ones who live in fear, in pain, with hunger and all the misery the world can inflict. And there are also the mothers who are not tiger mothers, who have succumbed already to despair. In nature, mothers eat their offspring when they feel too threatened. Human mothers get that most dreadful impulse too. There are the mothers who kill, the mothers who neglect, or who are so damaged that they simply cannot do the job. There are tiger children who do not have anyone to growl on their behalf, and because I have no skin, that thought makes me want to weep.
There are days when all I can offer him is my tiger growl, to tell him that he is not alone, even if he does have to deal with some very hard things for himself. I can only hope it’s enough.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but boredom is a good thing. I’m conscious that a lot of modern children live very scheduled lives. Outside of school there are clubs, extra lessons, and when those run out, the television and computer games will provide. Many children do not experience boredom. At the first sign of grumpy inspiration-fail, parents rush in to provide distractions. After all, bored children are horrible. I think this probably true for a lot of adults as well – both the boredom-avoidance, and the being horrible in face of it.
There is a difference however, with being an active participant in your own life, and killing time. There’s a mid ground, a place of occupied but not happy, which is very easily achieved. Filling up the time with noise and trivia makes us not notice it. Then sometimes, when trying to go to sleep, or when there’s a power cut, or something else to break the rhythm, the absence of anything real to do can become painfully apparent.
Boredom is not a thing to drown out or suppress, but a thing to experience when it comes. If there is an underlying ennui, a sense of dissatisfaction then maybe a bottle of alcohol and a film will make it go away for a while, but it seldom fixes it. Boredom can so often be born of soul-hunger and a need for substance. If we drown it in quick fixes, it keeps floating back to the surface.
My child does not have a television, or a games consul. Sometimes I find him things to do, but every now and then he gets some time when no one directs him. He responds to this in all kinds of ways – grumpiness included. There are times when even a book won’t help him, and he gets restless. Out of that restlessness comes a will to do something. From the knowledge of boredom, comes the knowledge of that which he really enjoys. It gives him perspective. He’ll start talking about grand schemes for wild adventures, and nurturing big aspirations.
I’ve noticed that if I allow myself the space and time to be not-busy, I become more conscious of the things in my life that frustrate me. I start to feel where the lacks are, where the need lies. This can be a depressing sort of process, but I’m learning to go with it. Like my child, when I’ve had enough time to get properly uncomfortable, I start imagining what I really want. From there, I can start imagining how to go about it, and once that’s in place, good action can follow.
Sometimes, what boredom creates is an awareness of my need to do something, make something, change something. Out of what seems like stasis, comes energy for renewal. But without allowing the bored stage, that doesn’t happen, we just run round the same little tracks in the same little circles, using the same sorts of tricks to distract ourselves from thinking too much.
For me, thinking about things is very much a part of my druid path. It’s through thinking and questioning that I find my way forward. Anything that reduces my willingness to explore and create change, does not seem like a good idea to me. Too much insulating comfort suppresses hungers that, when allowed some space, turn out to be for other things entirely. Too much facebook can make me feel dull and disorientated. Time outside feeds my soul. If I sit indoors and never turn the computer off, I may never find the impetus to go out. When I turn everything off and look around me, then I find the will and energy to do something different.
It’s my son’s 9th birthday. He’s working on a monster right now. 9 years feels like a very long time ago, of course to him it’s a lifetime. My tigerboy started going to rituals when he was a few months old. While being pagan informs a lot of how I am and how I live, I did not, in the early years, seek to raise him as deliberately pagan.
When he started attending a Church of England primary school, he found Christianity was being taught as a factual subject in the same way he was learning science, maths and reading. For him, there was no discernable difference and this caused him some trouble. I remember a conversation on the way home from school. “Jesus saves us,” James announced. “From what?” I asked. He had no answer, and recognised that he had no idea what it was supposed to mean, or why it was a good thing. Dealing with Christianity at school and talking to me about what he’d learned, he eventually decided whatever he was, he wasn’t a Christian. He asked “what am I?” and I said “what do you want to be?” So he asked what it is that I do, and we started talking about it. That autumn, aged 6, he opted out of acts of worship in school, whilst deciding to do all the cultural and social aspects of Christianity. He also decided that he wanted to learn Druidry so I set about teaching him.
We’ve done the teaching slowly and in an informal sort of way, as and when things come up. He has a keen appreciation of nature, a questing mind and a passion for philosophy. My tigerboy will happily spend chunks of time contemplating the nuances of ethical dilemmas. He likes to ask big questions, and ‘why?’ is a regular feature of conversations.
At the moment, my boy is doing druid stuff no doubt in part because it’s what’s there. I think there’s a lot about pagan religion that resonates with him. The ethical values and green consciousness will, I think stay with him as he grows. It will be interesting to see how he develops as a spiritual person.
I think many people who grow up in religious backgrounds have the experience of being directed, given one truth. I have no idea where my son will go, given support to be a spiritually aware person, but no pressure to manifest that in any specific way. If he decided to be an atheist, or pick up some other faith, I’d respect that decision. In the meantime, we have a birthday to celebrate, and monsters to draw.