Thursday, June 23, 2011

Facing Defiance Within the Family

Being a unique and many-branched path that runs its course separated from mainstream faiths, Paganism is often faced with judgemental comments and condescending questions.  And many of us who identify as Pagan have gone out of our way to study holy books and learn scriptures simply to combat those set out to 'educate and save' us.  By doing so we feel protected and comfortable being open about our beliefs. 

But what happens when the hostility is at a very personal level?  For the most part, it's rather easy for me to dismiss the belittling opinions of strangers and acquaintances.  After all, I know within my heart that my spirituality is pure and I am wholly fulfilled by this well-worn path that I have chosen.  What works for them does not work for me and visa versa.

Easy enough said until a situation surfaces that affects my children and my wishes for how they are raised.  What makes this current development even more troubling is the source of intolerance -- a relative, [and one who happens to care for my children when I'm working at the University].

My eldest just graduated from preschool and is still learning the concept that it is better to honorably admit to wrong-doing rather than to hide behind dishonesty.  So recently when he got a bit rough wrestling with his two and a half year old brother, said relative intervened.  And when my son fibbed about his naughty actions, this care giver warned that "God is always watching."

Oh no she didn't!

This relative knows very well my beliefs.  She knows that I do not believe in some vengeful God who is keeping tallies on the sinful things that we do in life.  And she knows that I don't want my children raised with such God-fearing lessons.  She knows all of this and yet she has never respected it.  For the past decade I have come to dismiss her demeaning comments about my "weird" religion -- [she is, after all, the sort who interjects her tactless opinion about anyone and anything where and when she can]. 

This time, however, was different.  I can't express how hurt and how angry I felt.  I knew she didn't fully approve of my faith and never missed a moment to mock me because of it, but deep down I guess I thought [or maybe hoped] that because she loved me, she would offer me respect when, as they say, 'push came to shove'. 

Curious to know how I handled it?  Well, I very clearly told her that my son was not to be reprimanded with lessons about a Being that would send him to some fiery afterlife if he did wrong.  I called her out on knowing fully well that I'd be upset were she to do such a thing and also reminded her that as his mother it was my right to raise him on the spiritual path of my choosing [until he reached an age where he could experience faith in his own way].  I ended by telling her bluntly not to scold him in such a way again. 

She replied with "it's better than your Pagan stuff" as she stomped out of the room.

So tell me friends, how am I to handle someone's direct intolerance when I can't simply remove them from my life?  How do I share a respectful conversation with someone who would intentionally disregard my beliefs and defy how I wish to raise my sons?  I'm at a loss and I'm afraid that my long hours of studying the differences and similarities of various religions can in no way help to ease the situation.

* Sigh *

 Pagan Dad posted recently about children facing their own intolerance and shared the following advice: "We, as parents, cannot change the world or the prejudiced people in it, but we can help to strengthen our children. To teach them that the opinions of others matter very little in the grand scheme of things."  

His words reminded me that I just have to trust in the guidance I give to my sons.  I have to believe that the compassion and tolerance I give to not only them but the world around them will trump the whispered threats of one or two close-minded individuals they may encounter on their paths.


  1. I live with this type of situation on an almost daily basis. My husbands sister is a *Born Again* who is convinced that I am evil incarnate. She fully believes I am corrupting my husband and keeping him from living his Christian life to the fullest...yes, he's Christian and I'm a witch. Our life and beliefs work for us and we feel it's no ones business how we worship or how we live.

    I can only say to you, be strong in your commitments to your path and Goddess will give you the wisdom to handle each situation as it comes up. Live your walk and teach your children not only about the goodness of the Goddess but also about the intolerance of the world so they will know the difference.

    From what you have written, you have a firm grasp on the situation and already know which direction to go.

    I salute you!!

  2. My fiancee is Christian and I'm Pagan. It's a relatively new thing for him as we've been together for almost six years and I've been a pagan only six months. He supposedly dabbled in Wicca about 10 years ago, but the way he talks about it (which is little) is he didn't do too much and keeps talking about the dangers. Lolwhut?

    I'm slowly bringing it out into the open more in our home. He'll see me reading books, I have a small altar in my kitchen, and he teases me about it. The man picks on my constantly so I know its his way of being at least semi-okay with it.

    My suggestion with your family member is to just be yourself and don't talk about it. If she says something again to your children, then absolutely tell her to stop it. May point her to some religious tolerance websites or books so at least she'll understand it, even if she doesn't approve.

    Best wishes!

  3. This is a tough might suggest finding an alternate caregiver, but that would only teach "avoidance" of an issue. It sounds as though you've already handled it honorably and directly.

    Helping your children sort out the animosity they (have) will encounter at times through life based on their spirituality, political leanings, or other preferences over the years is really what it's all about. Guidance and support...for handling things as they arise...and it sounds like you're already doing an amazing job.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think that you handled it quite well.
    I have always been upset by the double standard, they can convert our children and drag them to church but if we teach one of theirs it's like a declaration of war.
    Thanks for the link as well!

  5. I have the same kind of problem with my mom, only for her it's not a "You're going to Hell" kind of situation. It's more of a "You're living in a fantasy world" kind of thing. Very annoying. Especially when planning for a handfasting.

    Trust me, she did mocked me plenty by saying it was fake and make-believe and that everyone was going to think I was weird and no one would want to come. I shrugged her off.

    She was more concerned with how others were going to see her, instead of my happiness, to the point where she disrespected the High Priestess the night of the rehearsal. Talking to her like talking to a wall. But when she disrespected the High Priestess, I took her aside and told her off, and asked her to apologize.

    It's annoying and I sympathize with you. Makes me wonder what it's going to be like when we have children. Husband's brother is a mocker, too. Blessings to you and yours. ~)O(~

  6. Thank you all so much for sharing your stories and your support. I know whenever I face another's indifference or mockery I am not alone. There is something very comforting in the way this community bans together.

    Vickie, I haven't yet found someone close to the family who thinks I'm fully 'evil'. That must be extremely stressful during get-togethers.

    Hailey, merry meet and welcome to the Pagan path. I started on this journey as a junior in high school -- not quite sure what to think but maintaining an open mind [and heart] and knowing that spiritually I was feeling empty and needed to fill that void. Over a decade and a half later and I find the most beautiful peace in my connection to the God & Goddess. Best of luck as you explore this magickal world of love & light. :)

    Green Witch, nice to see you again my friend! Great minds must think alike -- I too considered the idea of another care taker or even leaving my position at the University, but then realized, as you suggested, that this would only prove to teach my children 'avoidance'. And in a culture rampant with intolerance, they need to learn how to stand strong against it. Thank you for reaffirming my decision to stick it out. :)

    Patrick, you have no idea how the words [from your blog] calmed my angry spirit and helped me to find an inner peace as I struggled to understand why someone who is supposed to love me would intentionally belittle something that is so very clearly important to me. From the depths of me, thank you.

    SelfPortrait, how terrible that your own mom would be more worried about the reactions of others than on the happiness of her daughter on what should be the most precious day of her life. Sad sometimes when we see people's priorities are grossly disorganized. My best to you.


  7. My husband and I live with my parents because mom is ill and needs care my dad can't provide alone. They are bible thumping christians. When I converted we almost had WW3 in my house. My husband is also Christian, but has no problem with my religion. I looked at mom and dad and said if you want me to stay and care for mom you have to let it go. Our rooms are decked out with my religious items, and mom and dad's rooms with theirs. Shared rooms are not allowed to have and religious items unless the room is needed for a certain reason, but must be removed when done. My husband's family while somewhat tolerant are on the she's going to hell and taking you with her band wagon. We have set down that NO ONE except my husband and myself talk of anything religious to our kids until we think they are ready. The punishment is 1 warning and then said relative will never be allowed to be alone with our kids again. The third offensive is that they won't see the child again until we think they are old enough to explore other religions as is their choice. I would recommend trying to find another caregiver if you feel your son ins't old enough to be able to deal with it from someone who is supposed to love him and want the best for him but still abide by the parents rules. Her doing this teaches him that it's ok to step on someone's beliefs and rules if they don't agree with them. You know your child and you are best to know how to protect him and help him deal with it. I'd look into finding a new sitter and warn the one you have now that if she wants to be part of your kids life then she must be respectful of you and your kids. I've always believed that family isn't blood. It's who you choose it to be, and if those you choose are not a good example for your kids then maybe they shouldn't be in your family at the moment. Young children will imitate the adults around them, especially caregivers because they tend to be people kids naturally turn to, and if those adults are disrespectful your child may become so as well since they have been shown by a trusted adult that it's ok to act like that. Also, even if the older child is old enough to process it and see it as wrong what about the 2 and 1/2 year old who hears it? How will he deal with and understand it? Since you know your children you know how best to handle the situation, since you know more about what they can handle. Things like this are always hard to deal with and I wish you the best.
    Blessed Be,

  8. SelfPortrait: I know exactly where you are coming from. Most of my family did the same thing. We had so much of a back lash that we included in the invitations a note that said "You have been invited to the Wedding and Handfasting of (our names). This was a duel faith ceremony. Christian and Wiccan. If you have any questions regarding the Bride's Religion or what exactly will go on during the ceremony please feel free to contact the Rachel(phone number here) with any questions or concerns. If you feel for any reason you can not respectfully help us celebrate our union we understand why you can't make it. If ANYONE is disrespectful they will be asked to leave and if necessary will be removed. We offer open arms and hearts to all who wish nothing but the best to us as we start our lives together, and we hope to see all we invited there. Thank you and blessings, (our names)." I know it can be hard and I'm sorry your mom was like that. We look at it as it's the loss to those who chose not to come. We lost nothing that day and gained only blessed love. I hope despite the issues with your mother you had a wonderful Handfasting.

  9. Thank you for sharing your situation Rachel. I cringe at the thought of living with someone who damned my beliefs -- home after all is supposed to be that haven where you can feel most comfortable being yourself.

    I suppose, for my dilemna, I'm just going to have to take this as it comes. Said Caregiver has been warned not to preach to my child[ren] again. Who knows -- maybe she'll surprise me and actually respect what I've asked of her.

    What makes the situation even more difficult is that my hubs is what I like to call "The Anti-Boat Rocker" [for those who know astrology, he's a Taurus -- nuff said]. This means that whenever a tense situation arises, he heads in the other direction. I have utterly no support from Mr. Neutral.

    Now, I have a thick-skin and can handle myself, but I also humbly admit that the entire thing would be far easier to swallow if I knew he stood firmly at my side.

    Life sure does keep us on our toes!

  10. I think that if you find another caregiver, it's not avoidance. You have given her a warning already. My mother is devout Christian of over 40 yrs. She doesn't speak to me but occasionally writes my 15 yr letters and includes a Watchtower or Awake magazine. Fortunately, my son is old enough to choose for himself but I feel that if I'm not good enough for you to speak to, neither are my children. Hubs is pagan friendly and he supports my new spiritual path. I hope that the caregiver respects your wishes or that you are able to find one who does. )O(

  11. I deal with issues like this in a far different way than most will. I'm about 96% in the broom closet anyway, but I forbid my family (all of them) from mentioning the word God or referring to any religious practice in the presence of my children until age 10. That included me. I raised them totally without any religious instruction at all until age 10 for all of them. The penalities for this were steep because I don't play around, I refused them access to my kids a couple of times for not obeying that.

    You must rid yourself of negative influences, even if they're family. That is my "no drama llamas" motto. I just refuse to be surrounded by hatred or negativity. If it had been me, that family member would never watch my child again because obviously you can not trust that your wishes will be respected.

  12. LJ, thanks for sharing your forthright approach to religion where your children are concerned. I'm curious to know how your husband reacted? With support? Mine is what I like to call "the anti-boat rocker". He will go out of his way to avoid controversy, most especially with family members. I would never have rec'vd his support in pulling our child away from this particular care-giver after just one instance.

    Either way, it appears [at least so far] that my approach to be adamant and direct with this indiviual concerning what I will and will not permit to be said to my boys has been successful. I think my sincerity was pretty evident.