Pagan Parenting: The First Year

pagan parenting

Like everyone else, the moment I saw that second pink line, I knew I stood on the brink of complete transformation.

Very soon thereafter, I began to think deeply on how I planned to introduce and cultivate a spiritual life for my child.  .

Something about the label “pagan” made me uneasy when applied to my child that never made me uneasy as applied to myself.  It’s not really a word I identify with, but more of a shorthand that roughly describes the same spiritual “neighborhood” I live in—the way people who live in Tyson’s Corner just say they live in DC because no one knows or cares where McLean, Virginia is and it’s just easier to name a close-enough place.

But I felt more sensitive about labeling my child this way.

So I decided to focus on what I call “natural” parenting.  If you are interested in taking your baby down a more progressive, integrated spiritual path, but you think it’s too early, think again!

There are lots of ways to begin.  Here are some ideas that worked for me.  Obviously, your mileage may vary, but I hope to at least inspire you.

Spend time outside.  Developing a connected relationship with nature never comes too soon.  Don’t just strap your baby in a stroller and keep him there.  Find a sunny spot in the grass and let him roll around (avoid commercial lawns, which tend to be loaded with pesticides).

Work on your “psychic” connection.  Or whatever you want to call it.  The first year makes a great time to promote your unspoken bond because . . . well, babies don’t talk.  Once they learn, their thoughts are, in many ways, limited by the constraints of language.  Lay your baby on your chest and synchronize your breath to hers.  Try baby sign language.  When she’s crying and you don’t know why, stop, think, and pay attention to her cues.   Sometimes, just “listening” to my baby’s non-verbal signals surprised me with insight!

Try mommy & me yoga.  So many benefits come with some quiet, physical closeness.  Mommy & me yoga classes are playful, meditative and fun.   And if your little one freaks out, everyone in the room will understand, which takes the pressure off “controlling” his outbursts.

Include your baby in your rituals.  Try something simple at first.  A smoke-free smudge, or just bring her out under the full moon and let her enjoy the experience.

Celebrate the Sabbats together.  Try to celebrate the Sabbats on her level (see Baby’s First Mabon).

Make a “sweet dreams” sachet.  All first year parents await the night when baby lets them sleep through it!  Try filling a sachet with sleep/dream herbs and/or calming gemstones.  Hang it over the crib securely out of reach.  It can’t hurt!

Bless your baby’s blanket or lovey.  Anoint them with a diluted blend of olive oil and light essential oils for protection.

Try making your own baby care products.  Be sure you really know your herbs and oils, that you are extra cautious about common allergens and whatnot.  But making your own natural baby products connects you to what you put on your baby’s body.

Focus on natural or organic solids.   Have you ever gone in the baby food section at the grocery store and looked at the ingredients in Gerber Graduates?  I was stunned to learn that it’s even legal to market foods so loaded with preservatives and artificial ingredients to young children.  Regard your baby’s body (and your own!) as a temple.  Choose simple, natural foods to introduce.  Even if you don’t have time to cook every day, it’s almost as easy to cut up an apple as it is to pop something in the microwave.  The beauty is, they don’t know what junk food is, so they don’t miss it!

Finally, celebrate that first year with an outdoor cake smash!  We didn’t do a party, which seemed to me like it was really for the parents.  Which is fine!  But the idea of planning, making favors, invitations, ect didn’t do anything for me or my husband.

I wanted to do something to mark the occasion, so naturally, I consulted Pinterest and decided nothing seemed to have more potential for a crafty little witch than a cake smash.

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You can use herbs in the cake that have meaning to you, or decorate it with whatever happens to be in season to honor The Wheel of the Year.

I chose blackberries for their protective properties.

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I love having a spring baby, and I recall noting what wildflowers were in season when he was born last year.  I feel nostalgic now seeing them come back, and I think it might be nice to teach him that when he sees those things, it’s a “sign” that his birthday is coming.

Common grape hyacinth is one of my favorite wildflowers.

grape hyacinth

Wild violets can even be candied and put into cakes and cookies.

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I also love tulips (we even named our dog after them!) and I plant them everywhere in the fall just so we can watch them come up now.

pink and yellow tulips

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My Hopes as a New Pagan Parent

This post, and many of the posts to follow, were scheduled six months in advance.  It’s actually late October.  But I know that right around this time, I will be going to labor with my first child.  Even as a newbie to the whole parenting experience, I have enough sense to know that come April, I will probably be pretty busy with a newborn, so I figured I should get the blog squared away for this month well in advance.  But as of this writing, I don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl yet.

I do know that I will screw up lots.  I will get things right, and I will get things very wrong.  I know that I will set goals as a parent.  I will meet some, and I will fail at a lot of other things.  But as a spiritual steward of this new little soul, I hope to get at least this much right.

I want my child to know that the spiritual life matters.  I really don’t care what path he/she chooses.  Really.  I’ve walked many myself.  They’re all beautiful.  I wouldn’t want to tell him/her which path to take, but I do want to show them the road map.   Speaking of which:

I want my child to know that when it comes to the spiritual lives of others, our job is to learn.  Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism—-these ancient faiths all have important lessons.  They didn’t get passed down a hundred generations for no reason.  I want to expose my child to every possible avenue of faith.

I want my child to respect nature and living creatures as a manifestation of god.  The way you treat helpless creatures, human or animal, says more about the state of your soul than any other single barometer.

I want my child to understand that things are to be used, but not worshiped.   It seems almost insurmountably difficult in our culture to teach a young mind why materialism is so corrosive to the soul.  But I intend to do my best.

I want my child to recognize art as divine expression.   What moves me may not be the same as what moves you.  But it’s the moving that counts.   Art isn’t a medium; it’s not a category.  Art is not limited to dance or music or sculpture.  Sometimes it’s a surf board.  It’s taking any medium and creating something that can only come from a human soul.  Art is the paintbrush of your divine nature.  Make it beautiful.

Most importantly, I want my child to know that the more deeply he/she loves, the closer he/she will be to what some people call “God.”  I think that says it all.

Here’s to high hopes.  Wish me luck.

The World is a Magical Place

Dear Baby,

No matter how life tries you, never forget this one thing: the world is a magical place.

You will never know this better than when you first enter it.  For these first years, everything will seem inexplicably wondrous.    The things your tiny eyes (hazel?  brown? or watercolor blue like your daddy’s?) will take in during that first ten thousand breathes of life or so will be the most baffling and unfathomable you’ll ever see.  Your imagination will not be halted by the limitations of scientific knowledge or the fallible nature of language.

Literally, you will not have words to describe it.   And that is a beautiful thing.

During this tiny window, this brief, precious moment frozen in eternity, you will, for the only time in your entire life, be purely and wholly yourself.  Nothing but spirit.  You will not be the sum of your culture or experiences.  You will not be tainted by the world or what it has exposed you to.  For now, you are only you.

Only love, and nothing else.

In the years to follow, you will accept the magic in the world without question.  Fairies swoop down from the sky to scoop up your teeth from underneath your pillow.  Old white-haired men saunter down the chimney to drop off shimmering gifts dripping with tinsel and striped candy canes.  Bunnies will leave behind pastel-colored eggs for you gather in the spring dew with delight.

Your daddy and I will look on with tears in our eyes, remembering what this was like.

But in a few short years, the fairies and the bunnies will fade into an invisible realm.  You won’t be able to see them as you did.  Once the world takes hold, you will begin understand things from your own light, through your own window.  Your focus will narrow, and the realm of magic will retreat.

It is my job to show you that it will always be there for you.

-Your Mom